Jet lag is a condition brought on by travelling long distances and through different time zones, which can’t really be explained or understood properly until one actually has experienced it. I know that until I had it recently I was blissfully unaware of how horrible the feeling was and how much it can take over your day. As I have never suffered from it before I had never even considered I would get it and had never thought about how surreal it actually does feel. I am not pointing this out to everyone to scare you all, but it can be eased if you are given a little pre-warning about it, and know what to expect and what to do.
The scientific name for this irritating condition is ‘desynchronosis’ which basically means ‘time-zone change condition.’ As person’s body clock becomes out of sync as it loses its natural internal rhythm, due to the speed in which they travel through the air through different time zones. Usually the more time zones you travel across the worse the jetlag will feel. In more serious cases it can cause heart attack, as the change in body clock can trigger abnormal heart rhythms; the statistic of this happening, however, is very low.
The main symptoms of jetlag include: Fatigue, insomnia, nausea, dizziness, clumsiness, memory loss, anxiety, bowel problems, sweating, headache, irritability and confusion. It is important to remember that jetlag doesn’t affect everybody in the same way, as some don’t feel any ill effect from it while it hits others badly. However all hope is not lost for the latter people – this condition can be helped and sometimes stopped. Below are the techniques the NHS (UK’s National Health Service) believes are the most effective in easing jet lag:
Before you travel
Top up your sleep
Make sure you’re fully rested before you travel. If you’re flying overnight and you can get a bit of sleep on the flight, it will help you to stay up until night time once you arrive at your destination.
Change your sleep routine
A few days before you travel, start getting up and going to bed earlier (if you’re travelling east) or later (if you’re travelling west). During the flight, try to eat and sleep according to your destination’s local time.
Have a stopover on the way
Including a stopover in your flight will make it easier to adjust to the time change, and you’ll be less tired when you arrive. Take advantage of any short airport transits to have a refreshing shower or swim in the terminal, if possible.
During your journey
Dehydration can intensify the effects of jet lag, especially after sitting in a dry aeroplane cabin for many hours. Avoid alcoholic and caffeine drinks (such as coffee, tea and cola), which can disturb sleep.
Preparing for sleep
During your flight, try to create the right conditions when preparing for sleep. Eyeshades and earplugs may help you sleep. Regular exercise during the day may also help you sleep, but avoid strenuous exercise immediately before bedtime.
Use remedies with caution
Many airline staff take melatonin, a hormone formed by the body at night or in darkness, to try to fight jet lag. Sleeping medication is not recommended as it doesn’t help your body to adjust naturally to a new sleeping pattern.
At your destination
Try to get as much sleep in every 24 hours as you normally would. A minimum block of four hours’ sleep during the local night – known as “anchor sleep” – is thought to be necessary to help you adapt to a new time zone. If possible, make up the total sleep time by taking naps during the day.
The cycle of light and dark is one of the most important factors in setting the body’s internal clock. Exposure to daylight at the destination will usually help you adapt to the new time zone faster.
For stays of less than three or four days, it may be better for the traveller to remain on “home time” (that is, timing activities such as sleeping and eating to occur at the times they would have occurred at home) to minimize disruption to the normal sleep-wake cycle although this is not always practical.
So, the important thing is to make sure you don’t panic; getting worried about a medical condition never helped anyone. When you’re used to one routine of day to night then of course you’re going to get a little muddled up when that all flips round. It’s important to remember that the amazing experiences that you have when you travel are worth a bit of jet lag and will not be ruined by it. Don’t be afraid of getting the condition as this may stop you from wanting to fly, and in turn spread your wings and experience all of the splendor that life has to offer.