Frequent flyers, cabin crew, even pilots suffer from the debilitating side effects of a flight. No one is immune. So what are the causes and how can we stem the effects of jet lag?
I always thought we got jetlag from lack of sleep but there's more to it than that. Rapid travel across several time zones, therefore exposing our bodies to light and dark at all the wrong times. It confuses our internal clock that controls our rhythmic sleeping and eating patterns.
The effects worsen if you're sleep-deprived before you travel. become dehydrated during the flight or cross several time zones. That's why we feel thick headed, floaty and become wide awake at 3am.
Travelling from West to East? Your body finds it harder to adjust to a shorter day than a longer one. Tip: try to time your flight so that you arrive in the afternoon to grab a few important hours to settle into a schedule, before selling off for a full night's sleep at your new, local, bedtime.
How to alleviate the effects of jet lag
Get into holiday mode early. Travelling east? A few days before you are to depart, start waking up and going to sleep earlier. Travelling west? Wake up later and try going to sleep later. Also try and sync meal times with what they'd be in your destination.
Up in the air
Unfortunately, there's little evidence that sleeping on a flight will reduce jet lag - which is good news if you're like me and rarely get much sleep 35,000 feet in the air. If you can sleep though, getting some rest will definitely help as it gives you some energy once you arrive to power through the jet lag. There are some quieter seats than others so if you use SeatGuru, it will help avoid an 8-hour flight sitting by the toilet.
It may help packing an eye-mask and some earplugs in case they aren't issued by the airline. Switch off the back seat entertainment and electronic devices to avoid the glow from the screens.
Don't get dehydrated
Dehydration intensifies jet lag. Humidity drops the higher you are - so on a high altitude flight, you will lose fluids faster. During a 10-hour flight, men can lose 2 litres of water and women about 1.6 litres. The Aerospace Medical Association suggests drinking about 235ml of water every hour you're in the air. Alcohol may help you relax, even sleep, but a hangover on top of a long flight isn't great.
Always stick to the local time on arrival. Walk, sunbathe or do whatever you can to expose yourself to as much sunlight as you can. After a very long flight, Mr P & I have been known to have a little power nap on arrival for just an hour and a half. We always set the alarm and drag ourselves out of bed no matter how tired we are. It works for us ... may work for you?
At dinner on your first night, don't have a heavy meal as this will prevent you from sleeping. Keep the over-indulgence for another day.
Do you have any tips on how to avoid jet lag? If so, do leave a comment as we'd love to know.