Jet lag: it’s a feeling we’re all familiar with. After months of anticipation, weeks of preparation and one night of frantic last-minute packing, you finally arrive at your holiday destination, only to find jet lag hitting you like a ton of bricks. Jet lag, or to give it its proper name, ‘desynchronosis’, is what happens to us when long-distance travel affects our bodies’ natural rhythms. It can leave us with an aching head, feeling fatigued, unable to sleep, confused and often, sadly, not at all in the mood to enjoy a holiday.
With the growing popularity of fly/drive holidays, where you jump straight into a car after a long flight, the need to minimize the damage of jet lag is even more urgent. Thankfully, there are a few tricks out there that will help you to recover and to re-adjust quickly. Here are our five top tips for beating jet lag.
1. Tweak Your Schedule
One small thing you can do to help prepare your body is to try to gently adjust your eating and sleeping patterns so that it fits the time zone you’ll be switching to. Some people do this over a matter of weeks, moving their usual schedule an hour later or earlier with each week that passes, but you can do an hour a day. Make sure you know which way round to shift things though: move the timings earlier if you’re travelling east, and later if you’re travelling west.
2. Eat and Drink Well
While you’re travelling, make sure to keep your fluids up – and by this, we mean water. It’s also best not to indulge in too many caffeinated or alcoholic drinks. Eating is especially important as jet lag can hit your digestive system too. It helps to keep to the meal schedule of the time zone you’ll be arriving in. But airplane food generally fits the schedule of wherever you’re flying from, so you’ll probably need to plan this in advance and bring some light snacks to keep between-meal hunger at bay.
3. Put Down The Pills!
It can be tempting to take sleeping pills on the flight, particularly if you struggle to sleep on planes. But consider it carefully first – they can actually worsen jetlag and make you feel especially groggy when you land. While you should try to sleep on a long-haul flight, we recommend some sleep-inducing tactics that are easier on the body – a blackout eye-mask, earplugs and a cup of chamomile tea. (And don’t forget to sleep in accordance with your new time zone!)
4. Keep Moving
A long flight can mean sitting still for hours on end, which isn’t good for the body at all. You’ll feel a lot better physically if you take a few walks around the plane, even if it’s just pacing the aisles every couple of hours. This will get your blood circulating and keep you feeling physically well.
5. Don’t Hide Away
Once you’re off the plane, it can be tempting to take advantage of any comfortable, horizontal location to sleep – even if it’s daytime. It’s recommended, however, that you only nap for between 20-40 minutes before getting outside, or you risk worsening your jet lag.
The best thing you can do to wake your body up and start settling into the new time zone is to do light exercise, so, if you can, try going for a walk. If it’s sunny then the light will decrease your melatonin levels (making you less sleepy), and the exercise will release endorphins, which will remedy any feelings of irritability or illness.
Don’t let jet lag spoil your trip. Indulging your body’s desire for sleep will play havoc with your time away and could end-up knocking valuable days off your holiday. Small tactics will make a difference. Try to organize as much as possible with regard to travel, accommodation and admin before you leave, saving time and energy after arriving at your destination. Car rental sites such as easyCar, money exchange companies and online hotel-comparison sites are just a few of the services you should investigate from the comfort of your own home, before you travel.
Enjoy your time away and let us know of any other tips for improving the quality of your break.