More than 22.2 million people flew internationally1 in 2021. That is a lot of people stuck in long lines, crammed into cramped spaces, and crossing time zones. There is little as stressful as rushing through the airport, praying you make your connection, and then trying to stay comfortable on an overnight flight. Add jet lag to the mix, and you are in for a rough ride. Keep reading to see how you can lessen the physical burden of flying long-distance.
What is Jet Lag?
Chances are, if you have flown through three or more time zones you are familiar with how disruptive jet lag2 can be. Jet lag interrupts the body’s natural sleep-wake cycle, otherwise known as the circadian rhythm. The body is still synced to the time zone where the flight started and has not yet acclimated to the time zone of the place you have landed.
Jet Lag can manifest in several ways and the symptoms can be mild to severe. The most common symptoms are impaired cognitive ability, fatigue, insomnia, digestion problems, and mood changes. The symptoms worsen the further you travel from the time zone you are accustomed to. Jet lag can last anywhere from days to weeks. It is a short-term problem that usually resolves itself once the body has acclimated to the local time.
Signs and Symptoms
The symptoms you are most likely to experience3 include:
- Sleep issues: difficulty falling asleep or waking up far earlier than planned.
- Daytime fatigue: you may feel extremely tired during the day.
- Impaired thinking: you may find you have difficulty concentrating or remembering things.
- Diminished physical abilities: if you are an athlete, you may feel especially affected by this one. Your body may feel weaker than usual and will not be at peak performance.
- Emotional irregularity: jet lag may make your mental health worse4 and increase irritability.
- Stomach issues: you may experience gastrointestinal issues5 including reduced appetite, constipation, and nausea.
How to Reduce Jet Lag Symptoms
Jet Lag can put a serious damper on your vacation, athletic competition, or business trip. As a result, it is great practice to try and reduce the effects of jet lag.
The key to reducing symptoms6of jet lag is speeding up the rate at which your body adapts to the local time zone. For shorter trips, you can try to schedule activities that will keep you aligned to your original time zone.
Five Tips for Fixing Jet Lag Symptoms
For longer trips, however, you will need to adjust to the time zone of your destination by trying the following:
- Manipulating Light Exposure: Strategic light exposure may help to speed up acclimation. Light, particularly its level and timing, has a powerful influence on our circadian rhythms. Properly timed exposure can help your body quickly sync to local time zones.
If you do not have access to natural light, certain light therapy lamps can be subbed in.
- Taking Melatonin: Melatonin is a hormone your body produces when exposed to darkness. It helps to time your circadian rhythms7. Light exposure at night can disrupt melatonin production. Before taking melatonin it is best to consult a doctor prior to your trip.
- Planning in Advance: In the days leading up to your departure, start modifying your bedtime so that when you arrive at your destination there is less of a shock to your system. In addition, you may want to utilize strategically timed melatonin and light exposure.
- Hydrating Regularly: Dehydration is a common side effect of flying as the air inside the plane is typically extremely dry. Those suffering from extreme dehydration8 report increased feelings of fatigue and lethargy. Drink plenty of water while on the plane to reduce sleep disruption.
- Limiting Caffeine: During your flight, reduce caffeine intake, or better yet, eliminate it entirely. Caffeine is extremely disruptive and should not be ingested less than five hours before your bedtime.
Traveling is one of life’s greatest pleasures, but it can also be stressful and hard on the body. To be sure you are sleeping optimally, use Somnoring® to continuously monitor your sleep. Your peace of mind is important and Somnology can help.
Check out our blog for more helpful sleep tips and tricks.