Travelling across different continents is a joy and an adventure, if not for the familiar feeling of fatigue that gets triggered as you arrive in a different time zone.
We are accustomed to getting our own share of night and day. Our body's own clock, known as the circadian rhythm, follow a specific cycle. Whether you are an early-riser or a night-owl, your body is triggered to wake and sleep at specific hours. However, all these changes when you are travelling inside a plane.
As you go across countries and travel long hours during flight, your body clock is thrown into confusion due to the time zone difference. Add to that, we exhaust the energy we use to cope up from moving around from one airport to another. Our innate rhythm – sleeping and waking up – is thrown out of balance and needs to be reset. That is when jetlag happens.
Jetlag is a temporary sleeping disorder that occurs as you cross time zones. It could last for a day or more, sometimes depending on the time zones crossed. During this, you tend to experience various changes: daytime fatigue, disturbed sleep, disrupted focus and even digestive problems surface. Luckily, there are ways to overcoming - or at least reducing - the effects of jetlag, and just like planning for your sleep in-flight, you too can prepare strategies on overcoming this well-known traveller's syndrome.
Set your body clock in tune to your destination's time before you leave. If you're travelling east, sleep at least an hour earlier than the usual for several nights before you leave. If you're travelling west, do the opposite. This is one way of shaking your circadian rhythm and preparing it for the much-needed adjustments before you start your trip.
Choose a flight with an evening arrival. If you're travelling seven hours to Asia, you'd land there when it's dark and it's okay for you to sleep. Arriving in the morning can be tedious; the day drags on for longer hours and sleeping at once can break your bodily cycle.
Switch up your watch's time zone. Get yourself mentally prepared for the change; once you're on the plane, enter your destination's time zone on your watch. This will help you keep away even if it's daytime.
Your in-flight food choices affect your sleep. Items laden with carbs such as rice, bread and pasta will increase your urge to sleep while protein-rich food – meat, fish and eggs – can help you stay awake. For flights to the east, go on, eat your favourite Carbonarra. If you’re heading to the west, choose salmon and chicken meat instead.
Avoid alcohol and caffeine, but drink lots of liquid. Getting enough hydration is a must while inside the plane, especially if you're in for the long haul. Air cabins tend to lower oxygen in the blood, causing dehydration to passengers. Water helps keep your skin moisturized, and also aids in adjusting to the new time zone later on. Keep away from coffee and alcohol as these items only have brief effects on keeping you awake – or asleep – and these will only worsen your jetlag.
Sleep during the flight. Dim-out, lights off, and put your eye mask on. Your body needs to calm down and recuperate during travelling hours. You can listen to podcasts that will help you unwind and fall asleep.
Go out into the sun. If you arrived in the morning, get out as much as possible. Take advantage of the daylight as it inhibits the production of melatonin, helping your body flush off the need to sleep while tuning your body clock to the local time zone. Avoid staying indoors during the daytime as it worsens the symptoms.
Hold off sleep. Avoid crashing into the bed as soon as you arrive; this may disrupt your body clock. Keep your naps to a minimum; a fifteen-minute shut-eye during a car ride will help you power up to your next stop.
Ready to rest? Block the windows of your hotel, slip into your comfy pyjamas and get ready for a snuggle. Avoid light exposure and too much sound. Take a nice, hot bath; the drop in the temperature will prep your body for a cosy sleep. The warm, floral scent of lavender can also trick your mind into sleeping.
Lastly, take it easy. One cannot completely eliminate the symptoms of jetlag, but you can lessen its effects by preparing your body and planning these simple strategies beforehand. As your body rhythm slowly gets acclimatised to the surroundings, your waking and sleeping patterns will get back to normal. Heading back home? Remember to use these tips for a well-rested flight, and less symptoms of jetlag.