If you have ever flown long distance, the chances are that you will have experienced jet lag to some degree. Jet lag occurs when our bodies have to rapidly adjust to a new day and night schedule, throwing our circadian rhythms out of balance and leading to feelings of exhaustion, restlessness, nausea and dizziness. It’s not pleasant, and can put a dampener on the start of your holiday, so what can you do to try and lessen your symptoms?
Unfortunately, there is no outright cure for jet lag. But there are several things you can do to ease the problem and stop a change in time zone from ruining your break.
Moving on the plane makes a difference
When on a long haul flight, your best bet is to sleep as much as you can. However, many of us find it difficult to sleep effectively on uncomfortable plane seats.
So if you’re not sleeping, the next best thing to do is get up and move around as regularly as possible. Moving around the plane — or even just doing a few simple stretches every now and then — will help keep you mentally and physically active and prevent blood clots by keeping your blood pumping. It will also help you sleep better later on, as you’ll feel less restless.
Natural light has an impact
Natural light plays a big part in your circadian rhythm. Studies have shown that bathing yourself is natural light is one of the most effective ways of combating jet lag as it encourages our release of serotonin — the hormone which provides us with energy. Once you arrive at your destination, take a short walk and indulge in a little sunlight before attempting to sleep. This will help your body get used to its new schedule.
Severity can depend on the direction you fly
The seriousness of your jet lag often changes depending in which direction you fly. Travelling eastward makes jet lag worse, because travelling in this direction causes you to lose hours in your day, making it harder for your body to catch up with itself. It’s much more difficult to adjust to losing hours than gaining them, so if you’re travelling east this summer take extra care with your sleep health.
Dehydration plays a part
Dehydration leads to many of the same symptoms as jet lag, such as fatigue, nausea, headaches and dizziness. This means that being both dehydrated and jet lagged can make your condition even worse.
Regular hits of cold glasses of water are a good way of keeping unnecessary symptoms at bay, and will also help you feel more alert. Not to mention, all those extra bathroom visits will force you to be more active on your flight!
Drinking does more harm than good
There is a myth that having a few drinks on a long haul flight will help you avoid symptoms of jet lag. Unfortunately, this is not true. In fact, the opposite is typically the case. Alcohol might help you fall asleep faster, but it’s also guaranteed to lower the quality of the sleep you are getting. This will make you feel more tired and more irritable, as well as increasing your risk of dehydration and therefore extra, unwanted symptoms.
Caffeine can help beat it
A cup of coffee can actually improve your symptoms of jet lag, but only when used in the right circumstances.
If you’re travelling west then a cup of coffee at the right point in your journey may help you stay awake for longer by providing you with an extra burst of energy.
However, drinking coffee when you’ve lost time could prove disastrous as you should be aiming to relax your body in preparation for sleep. Travelling east? Avoid caffeine.
At Express Pharmacy, we stock Circadin, a prescription only medication containing Melatonin. Melatonin is a naturally occurring hormone in the body and is used to help treat the symptoms of jet lag. Find out more here.