No matter how frequently you fly, you're not immune to the physical and psychological effects of jet lag. Whether you're flying across the country or across the world, the time zone changes and time spent in the air can take a toll, adding to the exhaustion of traveling.
Jet lag refers to the physical effects of a long flight and the difficulty of acclimating to a new time zone. What causes the symptoms and feeling of jet lag?
Traveling across more than one time zone in a relatively short period of time can disrupt your circadian rhythms, the 24-hour cycles—such as the sleep-wake cycle—controlled by your biological clock. When this rhythm falls out of sync, it often causes fatigue.
Though recuperation time varies from person to person, it generally takes one day to recover per hour difference in time zones from where you left and where you landed.
During this period, your body will readjust its circadian rhythms, including the regulation of melatonin, the sleep-inducing hormone.
While people experience jet lag symptoms differently, most people report a combination of the following side effects.
Jet lag symptoms and their severity often vary from person to person. The following conditions may influence how long and how intensely you feel the side effects.
Jet lag can throw off even the most experienced travelers and frequent flyers. However, you can take action to prevent, reduce, or alleviate the symptoms. The next time you fly across multiple time zones, you should develop a game-plan before boarding.
Adjusting to a new time zone requires both physical and mental recuperation strategies. To cope with jet lag and realign your circadian rhythms with the time zone of your destination, you can:
Unless one selects a business-class or first-class seat on the plane, it gets uncomfortable adjusting to a comfortable sleeping position. However, there are specific tips that one might find helpful when trying to manage sleep in flight.
Finding the right in-flight sleeping position is essential. Travelers can opt to stretch out on the adjacent seats if they are empty. They can also pile any sweater or scarf on the tray table and rest their head on it for some comfort.
One can try to get a window seat as it provides passengers with comfortable head support. It might help in getting some quality sleep and reduce the impact of jet lag.
The best way to overcome jet lag is by understanding how long flights affect the body. Think about it—being able to travel across the world within hours as opposed to days is a technological wonder. It makes sense that the human body needs time to adjust to such dramatic change and stimulation.
The next time you travel, be patient with yourself and listen to your body's needs. If you take action to realign your circadian rhythms with the local time, the side effects of jet lag will dissipate within a few short days.