What is Jet Lag?
Jet lag is a term that is used to refer to the symptoms that come from traversing several time zones in a relatively short amount of time. It is caused by the body’s difficulty in adjusting from the time zone it is used to, to the new time at the traveler’s destination. Due to the exponential increase in international travel the last few years, jet lag now affects hundreds of millions of people every year.
Jet lag is known to occur when two or more time zones are crossed. What happens is, when you do this, it disrupts your body’s circadian rhythm. You may not have heard of this term before, so we’ll give a brief explanation. Your circadian rhythm is essentially your body’s internal clock, and it regulates your sleep-wake cycle.
A major factor in how your circadian rhythm operates is light. There is a certain part of your brain that regulates bodily functions such as hunger, thirst, sleep, and going to the bathroom. It also controls body temperature and the levels of certain hormones in your system. Perceptions of either light or darkness trigger this part of your brain to execute certain actions.
So, let’s say that you traveled to a place where it is now getting dark. Let’s also say that the time where you are normally from is around noon. Your body is used to it just now being lunchtime. However, it is dark where you are, and this triggers the release of certain hormones in your body that tell it to get ready for sleep. The rest of the body is not ready for this to happen though. The same situation, except flipped, can happen where your body is ready to sleep when everyone else is getting up for breakfast.
This can cause your brain to become disoriented. When your internal clock is thrown out of sync, it can result in some serious strain on your body while it tries to readjust to the new time zone. The resulting effects and symptoms are what we call jet lag.
Besides changes in time zones, there are other factors that can contribute to and worsen jet lag. The first one is that the environment of airplane cabins is pretty extreme. They are three times as dry as the Sahara Desert, combined with a pressure similar to that at the level of Machu Picchu. The dryness can lead to slight dehydration, which worsens some side effects. Failure to get sleep on the airplane can also negatively your body and how to avoid jet lag.
Jet Lag Symptoms
Jet lag is something that can manifest itself in a variety of ways, but there are a few common ones. Keep in mind that the severity of these jet lag symptoms can vary from person to person. There are also certain sets of people who are at a greater risk of suffering from more intense jet lag. On top of this, certain actions can also negatively impact how your body deals with jet lag.
More Susceptible to Jet Lag
- Age: Elderly people usually have a harder time adjusting to new times, and may suffer more from jet lag.
- Pre-Existing Conditions: Jet lag is something that can increase in intensity when combines with conditions such as insomnia, sleep deprivation, and stress.
- Distance: Traveling across three or more time zones is when jet lag really sets in. If you are just flying across one or two time zones, you should have no problem adjusting pretty quick.
- Direction: Jet lag is exacerbated when taking a trip from West to East and tends to leave people feeling worse than flying East to West. This is because are generally going ahead in time, which causes you to lose hours.
- Flight Conditions: As mentioned before, the dryness in airplane cabins can contribute to dehydration and cause discomfort, which make dealing with jet lag harder.
- Alcohol: Alcohol can lead to dehydration and affect your sleep schedule.
Jet Lag Symptoms
These are among some of the most common indicators of jet lag. Keep in mind that, as mentioned before, different people will be affected differently.
- Early Waking
- Daytime Fatigue
- Mood Swings
- Prone to Sickness
How Long Does Jet Lag Last?
This actually depends on where you are going. People traveling within the same time zone should experience little to no jet lag. Even if you are traveling across one or two time zones, there should be no real problem. It is only when your flight crosses three or more time zones that jet lag really sets in.
It tends to be more prominent when traveling East, as it means you are losing hours. The jet lag symptoms usually appear within one or two days of travel, and the severity of the effects depend on how many time zones you have crossed. As for recovery, your body usually adjusts to one for two time zones per day.
It has been noted already, but travelers flying within the same time zone normally experience little to no jet lag. They may still, however, have some discomfort, but this can usually be attributed to the climate on the airplane, or changes in environment from their origin to their destination. For example, even though they are in the same time zone, there is a big difference between Copenhagen, Denmark and Cape Town, South Africa.
How to Avoid Jet Lag?
After reading the symptoms, you’re probably wondering how to avoid jet lag. There are several widely accepted steps that you can take in order to minimize the impact of jet lag. In order to be most effective, it is important that you keep all of these actions in mind. Don’t worry if some of these sound tough, we’ll show you some jet lag remedies afterwards.
It depends on where you are traveling, and how long you will be there, but it is generally a good idea to get rest on the airplane so that you won’t be exhausted when you arrive. You will find that, a lot of the time, you will have several hours, and maybe even the whole day ahead of you when you land. Sleeping on the airplane will go a long way to ensuring you are able to make it through your first day there, and will help you avoid making the mistake of going to bed early because you are tired.
Making sure that you’re staying hydrated is always important, but even more so when taking an overseas flight, as dehydration can make the jet lag symptoms even worse. Ensuring you have enough fluid intake will be key in trying to avoid developing jet lag, so pay attention to what you drink before, during, and after your flight.
It is important to keep in mind that water is not the optimal solution to hydrate yourself. You may think that drinking a bunch of water to prepare for a flight is a good idea, when in reality, it won’t help that much. It could even lead to water intoxication, which manifests itself in the form of headaches, nausea, and bloating. Keep this in mind the next time you fly.
It is important that, once you arrive, you walk around to get the blood flow going. Light exposure is one of the main elements that help regulate your body’s Circadian Rhythm. Exposure to morning light is best for adjusting to an earlier time zone, while evening light is best for later time zones.
By getting the right light at the right time, you are helping your body adjust to the new schedule even faster. It will help adjust your internal clock so that it aligns with the schedule wherever you are.
In the leadup to your trip, make sure that you are getting consistent exercise and eating right. Being in good shape will put you in a much better position to cope with jet lag. Exercise also helps you feel more alert, and can improve your sleep quality at the end of the day.
Do not drink alcoholic beverages the day before your flight, during your flight, or the day after your flight. These beverages can cause dehydration, disrupt sleeping schedules, and trigger nausea and general discomfort.
Do not drink anything with caffeine before, or during your flight. Caffeine acts as a diuretic. This leads to less hydration and more visits to the bathroom. Caffeine disrupts your sleep schedule and caffeine crashes can also leave you feeling fatigued and tired.
Sitting still for an extended amount of time almost never does anyone any good. Get up every 90-120 minutes (if you’re not sleeping) and walk around. Do 3 sets of 10 getting up on your toes. Every time you go to the bathroom do 3 sets of 5 squats. Last but not least, do some exercises in your seat. Stretch and bend your feet, followed by circular movements - keep the blood flowing!
By doing this, you are remaining active. Again, this will make you feel more alert, and can lead to some great sleep once you land. Also, doing exercise on a plane helps to reduce your risk of developing a blood clot in your legs. This is because sitting down, as you do on an airplane, slows blood movement to and from the legs and restricts blood flow.
Adapting to the local time quickly will have a tremendous positive effect in dealing with jet lag.
Tying in light exposure again, going out for a walk is nice. It lets your body know roughly what time of day it is, and will help in resetting your circadian rhythm so it aligns with the new time zone.
Try and adapt as much as you can to your destination’s timezone, by pushing mealtimes and getting light exposure from a daytime lamp that is adjusted to the local time at your destination.
Jet Lag Remedies that Work
The Flight Pack by ERW is by far the simplest and easiest of the jet lag remedies. There are other ways that some people have said helped them deal with jet lag, but almost all of them either treat a symptom that has nothing to do with jet lag, or they only treat one of the causes. The jet lag remedies that even address an issue are often a hassle to find, and are ridiculously expensive. Ranging from $100 IV therapy to a $200 session in a hyperbaric chamber.
The Flight Pack on the other hand offers a simple solution on how to beat jet lag, at a reasonable price. Just drink each bottle at a specific point in your journey and enjoy jet-lag-free travel. It’s as easy as PREP, REST & WAKE.
- PREP: Think of PREP as “super-hydration”. You drink it right before your flight to fill your body up with essential vitamins and minerals. This will be essential in combating jet lag. It basically prepares you to board your flight.
- REST: REST helps you enter a state of relaxation and make sure your body gets optimal conditions for quality sleep and recovery. You can either consume it during your flight or at your hotel. You’ll enjoy the soothing benefits and quality sleep no matter which one you choose.
- WAKE: WAKE gets you ready for your first day at your destination. It. Will help you focus on your preparations for today’s meeting or re-energize after a long flight.