You have been looking up to your vacation, but once you get on that plane, you will probably have jet lag at the end of it. Once you land at your destination, you may find that your vibe is off. The food looks amazing, but you totally don’t have an appetite, and you feel lethargic in a place that you thought would re-energize you. Worse still, you feel exhausted, moody, and fighting to even stay awake. Luckily, it isn’t a permanent condition. For seasoned travellers, this is an all too familiar tale, but it always goes away—if you know how to deal with it. While there is no formal jet lag cure, there are some remedies you can take to cure jet lag faster than just waiting for it to fade. Let’s start with what jet lag really is.
Consider this. If you have a long road trip, your ears tend to feel disoriented, and that only changes when you swallow some saliva. Because your eardrums respond to pressure differences, the ears feeling blocked is a physical reaction, and you have to pop them. These are natural reactions of the body to changes in the environment, and Jet lag is just one of them.
If your flight is traversing multiple time zones, your body will react to it. Commonly it shows by irritability, sleeplessness, fatigue, disorientation, dry eyes, general malaise, and even irregular bowels.
A flight from Toronto to Buffalo will most likely not cause you jet lag because the time zones are close to each other. A jet lag is more pronounced in long flights where you have to cross multiple time zones.
However, it is not automatic. If it is a case of general fatigue, you can sleep it off and feel better after a bath.
You will also experience jet lag if you don’t get enough shut-eye time since you either gained or lost time during the flight. If your life runs on a rigid program, say, you sleep at 10:00 PM each night and wake up at 5:00 AM, you will most likely be affected by jet lag. This is why the rule of thumb to cure jet lag before any long trip is to recover the time backward or forward before any long-distance flight. This is just one step to cure jet lags before you travel.
Whether you are traveling for the first time or you are a seasoned traveler, your body is bound to feel the jet lag. Once you are aware of this, you can take steps to preemptively prepare your body before you travel. A common mistake that many people make is saving sleep for the flight by not sleeping well the night before. Being lethargic before a flight sets the tempo for how your body will respond.
It is advisable to sleep well, exercise, and be well hydrated before a flight. Even at the airport, small things like taking the stairs and choosing to walk through the gates help some people sleep better on the flight and arrive fresher. Even when there is a minor time difference of three hours, changing sleeping patterns to accommodate it will cure the jet lag—or at least reduce its effects.
Staying hydrated and avoiding alcoholic and caffeinated drinks tend to lessen the effects of jet lag. Being dehydrated is your worst enemy hence getting in the extra water will pay later—minus the toilet breaks, of course.
Catching a movie, reading a book, or even finishing up what was pending from work will help you stay awake.
Remember everything you do in the lead-up to the flight, during the flight, and after the flight determine whether you will have jet lag and its severity. If you have ever wondered why frequent fliers don’t go straight to bed if they land in the morning, here’s the reason. While it is hard to actually execute, it is advisable to wait until evening to sleep. This helps the body adjust to the circadian rhythms, and when you wake up after, the jetlag will be gone.
The main treatments for jet lag are those that synchronize your time to that of the region you are traveling to. Therapies like adjusting light exposure before taking the trip will significantly reduce the time you are under jetlag. While this does not cure jet lag, it manages it well so that you can begin a regular schedule as soon as possible.
Other people swear by melatonin supplements to manage jet lag if they are traveling east. The effects of jet lag tend to be higher when you are traveling from West to East, primarily because if you’re bearing eastwards, you generally have less time to recover because the time zones are ahead.
Other things you could do is to say no to short layovers in many time zones and inflight alcoholic and caffeinated drinks. Lastly, if you arrive in the daytime, avoid staying indoors and allow your body to adjust naturally to the new environment.
This means, unlike traveling West, the body has a much shorter time to adjust and synchronize its circadian rhythm. That said, traveling north to south and vice versa may have the same effect. Essentially, the more time zones you traverse, the more pronounced the effects.
Generally, it is not a must that you travel at a specific time. When choosing a flight, select a flight that arrives almost at the same time you wake up at regular times. Your time of arrival is critical, and since most airlines schedule long-distance flights to arrive in the morning, you can anticipate it and book to cause minimum disruption to your rhythms.