When you picture yourself on holiday, how are you feeling? Refreshed? Excited? It’s sometimes easy to forget how dreaded jetlag can spoil our travels.
Jet lag occurs when your body has to adapt to a new schedule after crossing several time zones. Jet lag symptoms can often be worse when travelling east, as your body feels it’s having to adapt to a shorter day with less hours of daylight. So if you planning on a long-haul flight to the east this year, you might find yourself particularly susceptible.
But don’t fret. Read on for seven of our best tips to avoid jet lag, from the conventional to the slightly more unusual.
Alter your sleep patterns while still at home
Avoiding jet lag starts before you step on a plane. Try to alter your sleep patterns in the weeks before you depart, so you’re acclimatised to your destination when you arrive. If you’re travelling west, go to bed and get up early; if you’re heading east, do the opposite. Do this over a number of days for your body to get used to the changes and the impact will be lessened.
Control your food intake
In 2008, a Harvard Medical study found that cutting out food for around sixteen hours before a flight, then eating on arrival resulted in travellers becoming better acclimatised to their destination.
The belief is that we have a food-related clock which can supplant our light-based clock that generally serves as our body’s primary timekeeper. Whilst fasting for this long may seem extreme, it could serve as a great technique for people who regularly travel long-haul and spend their weeks adjusting between time zones.
Think carefully before using sleeping pills
You may find some people touting sleeping pills as a jet lag cure, but using them should always be approached with caution.
Whilst some research by the Cochrane Collaboration has suggested that taking melatonin (the hormone which helps to regulate sleep) can help to reduce or avoid jet lag, these results are believe to down to its support in helping you to manage your sleeping pattern adjustments.However it is not safe for everyone and the UK’s National Health Service warns that side effects including headache and drowsiness can be experienced. You should always consult your doctor before you consider taking any sleeping pills for jet lag.
Avoid alcohol and caffeine
Knocking back the drinks trolley might seem like a great idea, but alcohol-induced lethargy, grogginess and dehydration will only exacerbate jet lag symptoms.Similarly, caffeinated drinks will disrupt your sleeping patterns further. Swap coffee and alcohol for water – there will be plenty of time for cocktails when you reach your destination.
Be clever with your seat
Business and first class seats might be out of your price range, but you can still make savvy seat choices to help avoid jet lag. Try to pack light or put as much as possible in the luggage compartments, allowing you to stretch out your legs. Window seats are also the easiest for catching some shut-eye, and you should avoid the back of the plane, which is more likely to move from turbulence.
As our body’s primary timekeeper is light-based, natural light is important for helping your adjust to a new routine. However tempting it is to hide under your hotel duvet on arrival, forcing yourself to go out and take a walk will help with jet lag symptoms – with the added bonus of exploring your destination.