Science Says: How to Manage Jet Lag
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If you spend a lot of time travelling around the world, you have certainly experienced it more than once. It is a condition that turns the natural order of your body upside down, giving you the constant feeling of “it’s too early” or “too late”, depending on which direction you’re flying – East or West.
It also has an official name: scientists refer to it as “circadian dysrhythmia” – then again, scientists have a habit of giving things long and complicated names to show their superiority. (I’m joking, of course). This doesn’t stop jet lag from being a real problem for everyone travelling long distances across time zones in a short time.
But the same scientists that gave this condition that long and scientifically-sounding name have a few scientific tips for avoiding jet lag on your next trip.
Know its cause
It is important to know what the cause of jet lag is. The longer time you spend in a place, the more accustomed your brain grows of the natural cycle of that certain place – sunrise, sunset, and so on. When you travel fast across long distances, your brain doesn’t have time to adjust and it keeps working according to the previous “schedule” for a while – the body’s natural rhythms that regulate eating, sleeping, and the release of certain hormones, is upset.
It usually takes your brain a few days – up to five, on average – to switch to the new cycle. And during this time, you’ll experience symptoms like sleep disturbance, the inability to focus on the tasks at hand, headaches, fatigue, even digestive problems and reduced enjoyments of food (foodies, beware).
Sunlight is more important than you think – aside from being pleasant and helping us obtain a nice, uniform tan, it also helps our body regulate its sleep schedule. And it also serves as a very useful tool to help you to get rid of your jet lag faster. Your exposure to sunlight helps your body adjust faster to the new conditions – if you travel east, absorb as much morning light as you can and avoid exposing yourself to evening light, and when you travel west, do the opposite (jet lag is unlikely to occur when you travel north or south). This way, your brain and body – especially your hormones – will adjust much faster to the new conditions, helping you truly enjoy your trip for longer.
Stay hydrated and avoid alcohol
An extra tip: stay hydrated while travelling. Dehydration is unpleasant on its own but it can make jet lag much worse. So, to make sure your symptoms are milder, try to drink as much water as you can while on the flight, and skip the alcohol completely, no matter how tempting that cocktail served by the flight attendant might look.