How to beat jet lag

You’ve travelled for 23 hours, changed planes three times and now you’re raring to go and soak up the sights and sounds of your destination, but your body is begging for the nearest pillow… You’re suffering from jet lag.

Basically our bodies aren’t designed to travel vast distances in a short period of time. So, any long-haul trip across different time zones is bound to upset your circadian rhythm, otherwise known as your body clock. This is the primal drive that tells you when to wake, sleep and eat within a 24-hour cycle and is influenced by environmental conditions such as light and temperature.

Symptoms of jet lag include feeling sleepy during the day or wide awake at night, having trouble concentrating, getting hungry at odd hours or not being hungry at all, and general listlessness and irritability.

Here are five tips to stave off jet lag:

Reset your body clock

From about four days before departure, start adjusting your sleeping and eating patterns, depending on your destination. If you’re heading backwards time-wise – or west –  make your bedtime an hour later than normal, and if you’re going east, do the reverse by going to bed 60 minutes earlier. When you’re on the plane, change your watch to the time of your final destination, to ease the transition to another time zone.

Choose overnight flights

It’s always advisable to try and get some shut eye on the flight, and it’s far easier to do that when it’s dark. So, if you can, opt for an overnight flight. Pack earplugs, a sleeping mask and even your favourite pillow in your hand luggage. Stick to your regular bedtime routine, change into comfy clothes and socks, and brush your teeth and wash your face before settling down for the night.

Drink more, drink less

Cabin pressure can be very dehydrating, so make sure you drink plenty of water on the flight. And while you may think that a G&T or two will help you relax, alcoholic drinks are more likely to disrupt your sleep and dehydrate you more.

Sleeping pills

It may seem a good idea to pop a pill to ensure an undisturbed rest, but sleeping pills can make you feel groggy and grumpy when you wake up. If you do opt for sleeping pills, make sure you’ve tested them before leaving home to avoid any unpleasant side effects at 12 000 feet.

An alternative to drugs is melatonin, a hormone that researchers say help reboot your body clock and alleviate the symptoms of jet lag. Again, it’s best to start using melatonin some time prior to departure for optimal benefit.

On arrival

Depending on what time of day you arrive at your destination, try to amend your habits to the local time. If it’s daytime, avoid the temptation of heading straight to your hotel room to catch up on your sleep. Rather soak up some sunshine or do some gentle exercise to help you acclimatise quicker. Should you be desperate for some sleep, take a 20-minute power nap. A few hours longer and you’re likely to disrupt your circadian rhythm even further. Stick to your regular bedtime if you arrive at night. In other words, if you land at 7pm and you usually go to bed at 11pm at home, maintain that pattern.

 

There’s no fail-safe method to avoid jet lag, and each of us react differently to long-distance travel. However, these tips may make the transition to a different time zone a bit easier.

By Nicci Botha

Related Content

Wild about Argentina

July 20, 2017

With trippy multi-coloured quebradas, soaring Andean peaks and shimmering prehistoric glaciers, Argentina is an adventurer’s paradise.

Full Article

10 tips to stay healthy on holiday

June 14, 2017

Nothing is going to spoil your dream holiday more than a touch of the dreaded Delhi belly or being laid low by a bad...

Full Article

The Jikeleza Route uncovered

May 17, 2017

Ask the locals and they’ll tell you the Jikeleza Route, bordering the Wild Coast north-east of East London, is a beach-bush-food-art sort of place...

Full Article

Where East kisses West

April 19, 2017

Istanbul is an intoxicating blend of imperial grandeur and funky modernity. It could also very well be the hub of the new, east-facing Europe.

Full Article

The Berg’s bubbly valley

March 24, 2017

While each section of the Drakensberg has its own allure, the varied offering of Champagne Valley in Central Drakensberg makes it a favourite destination...

Full Article

Hitting the West Coast road

March 8, 2017

Justin Fox packs his Beetle with boards and beach toys, and joins a group of friends heading up the West Coast for a week...

Full Article

Border hopping the great thirstland

February 15, 2017

The Kgalagadi Transfrontier Park, sandwiched between Namibia and Botswana, is a place of red dunes, dry rivers, black-maned lions and serious safaris. Time to...

Full Article

Vietnam: affordable and exotic

January 25, 2017

With jungles, mountains and tropical islands, Vietnam is blessed with incredible natural diversity. What’s more, its history is fascinating, food mouth-watering and culture infectious.

Full Article

Get a natural high in the Overberg

January 18, 2017

With fynbos, penguins, sharks, whales and even leopards, the Overberg is paradise for nature lovers – and it’s blessedly uncrowded for most of the...

Full Article