When you travel the world in multiple time zones, like it or not, you will have a symptom called “jet lag.” Unfortunately, there is no way you can avoid this. However, you can minimize its effect that makes your travel (and post-travel) much more bearable. It is quite simple once you understand it. This is how.
Understanding Jet Lag
The term “Jet Lag” is quite self-explanatory – it is a lag caused by a jet – meaning the aeroplane.
What’s lagging? Your body clock – or the fancy medical term is your “body circadian rhythm” It is basically the 24-hours cycle your body keep repeating, (Why 24 hours? because we live on Earth that has 24 hours planet rotation. If we were in planet Jupiter, our body cycle would be adjusting to 10 hours as that’s how fast Jupiter make 1 rotation)
Why just jet? Can we get a “car lag”? or “boat lag”? – No. not really. That’s because the aeroplane can move you from 1 location to another location in great distance relatively fast your body cannot adjust.
For example, say you are taking non-stop 17 hours flight from Perth, Australia to London, UK. It took off 7 pm in Perth. So after basically dinner, sleep and breakfast on board, 17 hours later you are in London. It supposed to be 12 noon the next day in Perth (if you are not flying), but since London is 8 hours behind, then you are now standing in London 4 am in the morning, collecting your luggage.
Jet lag is just a temporary sleep disorder. That’s all…
What Jet Lag does?
OK, so at this moment, no problem. “Yeah, bring it on,” you said. But wait 10 hours later. At Perth, this is 10 pm and it is your usual bedtimes and your body knows it. However, it is just 2 pm in London and you already start to get sleepy, tired and want to go to sleep.
What to do, then? Sleep now in the middle of the day and miss all the fun? Or keep it going and force yourself to further awake until 10 pm London time, which is another 8 hours. Can you do that? It is basically the same as stay up all night and only sleeps at 6 in the morning.
And with all the excitement, of course, you will stay awake. The problem starts when it comes bedtime in London, you cannot really sleep. Why? Because your body thinks it’s should be awake. But since you are tired anyway, and you haven’t really sleep at all, with a bit of effort you will fall asleep and become much better adjusted after. This is why travelling from east to west is easier in term of adjusting for a jet lag.
(Imagine the other way around. You start 2 pm in London. After flying for 17 hours, it supposed to be 7 am the next day. But because Perth is 8 hours ahead, it is already 3 pm in the afternoon. Then your bedtime is just 7 hours later. But another 7 hours is just 2pm in London time. It is like you need to sleep in the middle of the day. That’s why travelling west to east is harder to adjust)
How to Reduce Jet Lag Symptom
- If you have multiple stops, try to make a progressive itinerary, i.e: going east or west at the shortest distance first before continuing. Or you can just deliberately plan a stopover. This strategy allows your body to adjust progressively as well.
- Create sleep debt or surplus. Travelling to the west direction: get more sleep as much as possible just before the trip, so you can overcome that extra hour you need to be awake with ease: try to sleep the whole flight. Travelling to the east: create as much as sleep debt just before the trip: binge watch that Netflix TV series on the plane, do extra training in the gym, or any other activity that allows you to help to sleep “in the middle of the day”
- Avoid as much as possible other stimulants like alcohol, too much food, too much coffee that may affect your ability to control your sleep.
- Worse come to the worst. Get the sleeping pill handy. Don’t bother so much with all other “cure” that claims to be able to handle jet lag. It is just about managing your sleep.
All those symptoms such as tiredness, sleepiness, dizziness maybe headache as well, that’s because you need to adjust your sleeping time. Curing jet lag is all about sleep management. If you are a person that can go to sleep easily, you will not be so much affected by the jet lag phenomenon. But for the rest of all, the cure is depending which direction you travel by the jet:
- Going East: Get sleep debt
- Going West: Get sleep surplus.
Until your next travel.