Anyone who has travelled across multiple time zones can agree that jet lag is a real drag. While you’d rather be out exploring the sights of a new city, you’re stuck in your hotel bed sleeping the majority of the day away. Unfortunately, there’s no cure for jet lag, despite countless websites and articles offering endless tips and miracle cures. What to believe? We’ve put in the hard work and sorted through fact from fiction to compile these five tips, scientifically proven to minimise the effects of the jet lag drag.
1. Mellow out
While conditions aren’t great on planes, sleeping on-board can make a huge difference in jet lag severity. As sleeping is considered a largely ritualistic event, try to recreate your own home bed time habits. Changing into pyjamas, brushing your teeth or mellowing out with an in-flight movie or book can all help make getting those forty winks a lot easier on the plane. You can get even comfier by purchasing an inflatable or curved-neck pillow and wrapping the airline-supplied blanket around you. Sweet dreams!
If you’re still struggle to sleep on the plane, melatonin can help. Melatonin is a hormone produced naturally in the pineal gland. The hormone is usually secreted in response to darkness, and production increases while we sleep. Melatonin helps our body to rest and restore. During the day, lightness prevents the hormone from producing and instead hormones are secreted to keep us awake and alert. A low dose of a melatonin supplement taken close to the desired destination bedtime has been found to decrease jet lag. Melatonin is available via a doctor’s prescription in Australia. As with any medication, please discuss this option with your doctor well ahead of time.
2. Stay Hydrated
Dehydration increases jet lag severity. Due to a lack of humidity in cabin air, there is a high risk of dehydration while flying. Cabin humidity levels fall to as low as 10 to 20 per cent on board, much lower than our comfortable 30 to 65 per cent humidity levels on ground. Prepare for the flight by buying a large bottle of water (after passing through customs – you cannot bring any outside liquids or empty bottles above 100 millilitres through these gates) and refilling throughout the flight.
All airlines have sufficient water supply on board, and drinking taps are easily accessible (most are located near the toilets). While having a pre-holiday spritzer may be appealing, your body will be paying for it later on, so avoid alcohol on board. Caffeine is also extremely dehydrating – so stay off the coffee, black tea and cola. If you’re desperate for a hot drink, pack caffeine-free coffee or herbal tea in your carry on. Herbal tea can also help you relax on board, making nodding off a little bit easier. Wait until you’re poolside and indulge in a post-flight cocktail then – you’ve deserved it!
3. Sweat it Out
Researchers have found that scheduled exercise before and during a holiday can alter your body clock. How is this so? Your main circadian clock is located in the hypothalamus, the part of your brain that controls many of your body’s activities, including sleep. Your circadian rhythm is disrupted when you travel, leaving you jet lagged. However, it’s been proven that regular exercise can return this rhythm to normal sooner. So, before making a beeline to the all-you-can-eat breakfast buffet, get a morning workout in – it may do you a world of good!
4. Get Appy (yes, we’re serious)
Researchers at the University of Michigan have been making headlines with their iPhone app Entrain, who some say can help overcome jet lag faster than anyone thought possible. The app uses mathematical formulas to calculate the most effective way of adapting to your destination time zone. It provides you with a schedule of light and darkness that should be followed upon your arrival, based on your home sleep schedule and your light exposure history. While Entrain’s sleep schedules are scientifically proven, they lack human evidence to support its effectiveness. But if you’ve tried absolutely everything to cure jet lag, it’s worth giving it a go!
5. Acclimatise in Advance
Above all, most experts agree that acclimatising in advance is the most effective way to stave off the jet lag blues. Scientists at Rush University have found that adjusting circadian rhythms a few days before flying may reduce the effects of jet lag. If you can, try to sleep on your destination’s bed time two to three days before you fly. If you don’t have the time, experts recommend instead adjusting to your new time as soon as you board to minimise jet lag effects. Change your watch time and start looking towards your destination.
The Final Word
Jet lag can be a real drag, but by following these tips, you can arrive feeling refreshed and raring to go.
Due to the uncertainties of travel, make sure you pack comprehensive travel insurance for comprehensive peace of mind. Compare providers to get the best deal, and make sure you read the fine print to see what’s included. Happy travels!