Jet lag is one of the major downsides of traveling. This phenomenon gives you a bad hangover-like feeling after a long flight that can be characterized by drowsiness, irritability, indigestion, headaches, confusion, and a bad sleep schedule.
For medical professionals, jet lag is called circadian rhythm disorder. It is the common reaction of our body when we travel to a different time zone breaking our usual routine. But good the good news is, there are ways to beat it.
Here are some of the mistakes we commonly make when trying to beat jet lag and suggestions from experts on how to really deal with it.
7 Ways to Beat Jet Lag
1. Sleeping on the plane.
According to Dr. Alon Avidan of UCLA’s Sleep Disorders Center, jet lag kicks in if you are traveling across at least two time zones. And sleeping on board depends on which direction you are headed and the duration of your flight.
And according to Dr. Lisa Medalie, a behavioral sleep medicine specialist at the University of Chicago Medicine, deciding to whether sleep on the plane depends on the best interest of the passenger.
If it’s daytime where you are heading, Dr. Medalie suggests that you use the plane time for relaxing or working.
She also advises to condition your body on the time zone of your destination, days before you leave.
“Most people sleep best in their bed, and therefore, it is best to gradually shift at home,” Dr. Medalie said.
“If flying east, passengers should gradually advance (i.e., move bedtime earlier), and if flying west they should gradually delay (i.e., move bedtime later),” she added.
2. Choosing the right seat.
According to experts, it doesn’t matter if you are flying on first or business class seats. As long as you have wider seats and a deeper recline, you could have a solid sleep.
Avidan from UCLA suggests that a window seat is preferable because you can put a pillow by the window for extra padding. And you won’t be disturbed during your sleep in case one of your seatmates needs to get up and leave the row.
The seats to avoid, according to Dr. Clayton Cowl, a specialist in aerospace and transportation medicine at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, are the back seats of the plane, because every time the plane goes into bumps, the back of the plane moves more than the front of the plane, which is very disruptive.
He also mentioned to avoid seats by the galleys and lavatories where motion and commotion can keep you up.
3. Watching a movie to help you fall asleep.
Experts don’t always agree with this. Because according to them, the blue spectrum lights coming from gadgets can actually delay sleep.
“It stimulates the circadian clock that controls our circadian rhythm,” says Dr. Avidan.
“We suggest turning off cell phones, ipads, and laptops one hour before your desired plane nap time,” Dr. Medalie added.
4. Drinking a cocktail.
According to Dr. Avidan, alcohol becomes more potent and dehydrates the body at high altitude. Thus, this measure could actually wipe away and destroy a good quality sleep if you don’t feel better once you wake up.
He advised to drink a cup of water instead, because studies have shown that hydration aids with sleep.
But of course, don’t drink too much so you don’t have to go to the bathroom frequently.
5. Taking a sleeping pill.
If you are having a long flight of 7 or 8 hours or more, a sleeping pill can be useful, according to Dr. Medalie. But when flying shorter than that, it is not advisable, especially since these aids have intended side effects.
“When people take longer acting meds, there is a potential that they’re going to be very sedated and wake up drowsy. If they’re not moving and dehydrated, there’s also potential for deep vein thrombosis in individuals who are predisposed to it or have a history of it or a pulmonary embolism,” Dr. Avidan says.
6. Drinking coffee before the flight.
Dr. Medalie advises to avoid all caffeine on flying. Because caffeine has a long half-life and stays in the system several hours after consumption, drinking it while flying could make it more difficult to sleep while on board.
7. Changing your environmental factors.
Dr. Avidan says it’s usual to most of us to experience “environmental insomnia” or the lack of sleep brought on by immediate conditions.
To help yourself get some sleep, Dr. Avidan says having an eye mask, neck pillow, ear plugs, comfortable clothing, and a blanket will be helpful when flying.
The secret is just to keep yourself warm, because if the body is cold, it won’t go to sleep, Dr. Avidan added.
Traveling in long time increments can really be tiring, and unfortunately, jet lag may seem inevitable. But following the advice and suggestions of the experts might just ease these conditions and help make your trip more comfortable. Give it a try to see if it works for you. Happy traveling!