Its the one unavoidable problem of long-distance travel, and it can make the first few days in a new country seem like an insomniac nightmare.
Jet lag affects everyone differently and there is good evidence to suggest that the direction you travel affects the severity of the condition. There are several sensible ways to manage the problem effectively, helping you to acclimatise more quickly and ease into normal body rhythms of sleeping and waking more naturally.
Firstly ensure you are well rested and not unnaturally fatigued. This includes cutting back on caffeine and alcohol in advance of departure to eliminate dehydration and disruptive effects on your body and sleep patterns.
Incrementally adjust your sleep patterns to your destination if possible. Gradually sleeping at times closer to the ones you will have to on arrival will always reduce the time spent acclimatising.
Get a good nights sleep immediately prior to flying so you are in the best psychological state to deal with the often stressful demands of flight on your body and mind.
Eat a light, well balanced meal that will not make your flight uncomfortable. This probably means no curries or spicy food, for your fellow passengers’ sake as well as your own.
During the flight
Secondly, during the flight, try and maximise all the elements that will make your time more comfortable to ensure you arrive in the best possible shape.
Try and get into the sleep pattern you will need in your destination. This means whatever the time of your departure, if it is nighttime in the country you are arriving in then try and sleep as well as possible during the flight. This can be difficult in the often cramped, dry conditions on-board a plane, but using everything reasonably available to you including eyemasks, earplugs and medically recommended sleeping aids will ensure you cut down on the initial disorientation.
Try and stay well fed and hydrated. You will need to plenty of water or fruit juice to keep sugar levels up. Despite the availability of alcoholic drinks on some flights, it is not recommended you drink alcohol due to the dehydrating effect on your body: you’ll have plenty of time to enjoy a pina colada once you touch down.
Finally, on arrival, remember to take care of yourself and your body, even if the temptation is to enjoy a little partying. This means plenty of water, and fresh fruit and vegetables to keep up your sugar levels and vitamins (especially vitamin D).
Try to sleep and wake during the correct hours. Natural light is a strong indicator to the body clock about when to rest and when to get up and go. With this in mind, try to avoid artificial lights from television and computer screens immediately before bed as these have a stimulating effect and make adjusting into a restful sleep pattern difficult at first.
Try and maintain a consistent short sleep period of four hours on arrival and gradually add to this. The pattern you establish should effectively anchor you to the local timings. A little light exercise never hurts, at least in most cases, and will help you to relax and sleep easier.
These tips are just ways of coping with, and reducing the effects of, jet-lag. Hopefully these will help any prospective traveller enjoy their time abroad, after all you didn’t fly around the world to feel miserable and tired!
Do you have anything special you do to combat jet-leg? Let us know in the comments section.