Jet lag disrupts your body’s natural clock, meaning that when you travel to a new time zone, it may be harder for you to sleep.
It can cause athletes to experience a lack of concentration or loss of appetite, and even impair your mental and physical performance.
To combat jet lag, you can prepare in advance using a number of expert tips, including adapting your exercise schedule.
What is jet lag?
Before we look at how you can combat jet lag, it is important to understand what it is and the impacts it can have on your body. Desynchronosis is the medical term for jet lag, and
in simple terms it means that your body’s natural clock (also known as your circadian rhythm) is out of sync.
Sleep and your own established sleep routines are linked to your exposure to light. During the evening hours, or when you are exposed to less light, your body starts to prepare you for sleep by releasing a hormone called melatonin into your body from your brain. Melatonin is released for 10-12 hours during the night-time and helps to stimulate sleep. In other words, exposure to light makes it harder for your brain to release melatonin, which makes it more difficult to fall asleep.
Travel impacts these natural body cycles due to change in light, or because of day and night exposure as you move across time zones. This change to your body’s regular cycle means you may experience feelings of tiredness during the day or of being awake at odd local times at your new destination.
Travel impacts these natural body cycles due to change in light, or because of day and night exposure as you move across time zones.
Symptoms for jet lag can persist for approximately one day for each time zone that you cross.
The effects of jet lag
If you are feeling irritable or fatigued, have a headache, or are finding it difficult to concentrate after a long-distance flight across multiple time zones, this may be due to jet lag.
Effects from jet lag may include:
- Difficulty sleeping at your normal time
- Frequently feeling tired during the day
- Lack of concentration and situation awareness
- Decreased motivation
- Upset stomach
- Loss of appetite
- Feelings of disorientation or “head-buzz”
- Impaired mental and physical performance
Symptoms for jet lag can persist for approximately one day for each time zone that you crossed, regardless of whether you are travelling east or west (so travelling across three time zones would mean that you may feel symptoms of jet lag for three days).
Whilst these symptoms might be tough to deal with, there are ways that you can prepare yourself before travel that can minimise jet lag and help you to feel ready to go.
What can you do to combat jet lag?
To start tackling jet lag before it even begins, you can try techniques such as going to bed one hour earlier when travelling east, or one hour later when travelling west, for each time zone that you will cross. For example, if you are travelling east on a Monday across two time zones, go to bed one hour earlier the Saturday before, and two hours earlier the Sunday before. There are also numerous jet lag planners available online that can help you establish a sleep routine in preparation for your destination.
Other techniques to help combat jet lag include:
- Setting your watch to the time zone of your arrival city before you take off.
On the plane:
- After your first meal on the flight, try to get as much sleep as possible.
- Hydrate! Dry cabin air can cause the body to lose more fluid than normal, so try to stay hydrated throughout your flight.
- Use eye shades or ear plugs to reduce light and noise as much as possible.
- Try to stay awake and adapt to the location’s natural time zone (avoid naps during this time if possible).
- Adapt your eating schedule to local times.
- Intense or competition-level exercise should be avoided in the first few days; however light intensity can help.