by guest blogger Psicoline
These days, many of us are in constant motion – even long distance, because distances are no longer what they were – for example, flying clear round the world can be accomplished in 67 hours. Many travel regularly for business; others are nomads, digital or otherwise; and millions more travel on holiday or to visit friends/relatives once or more per year.
One of the main problems with this is jet lag, which is the time lag between different countries that affects your sleep rhythm.
People have a biological rhythm (circadian cycle) that controls activity and sleep and is in turn controlled by daylight. If you travel more than five time zones the way human beings have travelled till the 20th century – by sea or land (even if it’s by car, bus or train) – these rhythms aren’t disrupted. But covering that same distance quickly (i.e. by air) exposes the body to jet lag. Some theories posit that whenever you travel east, the probability of experiencing greater jet lag symptoms increases, so it’s more difficult to adapt to the new schedule and could disrupt your biological rhythm.
Symptoms of Jet Lag
It’s estimated that the effects of jet lag take two to six days to disappear depending on the time zone you have travelled to, but bear in mind that the body needs one day for each time zone it crosses, so, if you fly to a country whose schedule is five hours different from where you started, you’ll need five days to adapt to that new schedule. The main symptoms are:
Sleep disturbance/insomnia: difficulty falling asleep and staying asleep. Excessive drowsiness: sleeping too much, especially during the day.
Fatigue and feeling unwell, which can lead to stomach problems, from constipation to diarrhoea.
It can also affect your mind, generating concentration problems, causing you to have difficulty performing routine tasks. It can also affect your moods by generating sudden mood swings, from euphoria to sadness.
Easing Jet Lag
Prevention is the best remedy for coping with jet lag. If you’re going to travel, it’s important to take measures beforehand:
Rest before travelling. You shouldn’t begin your journey fatigued. If you’re going on a business trip, for example, you’ll need to be at your best, and rest is essential for that. Also, if possible, you should schedule the trip to arrive early at your destination, so you have time to adapt.
Avoid alcohol and caffeine consumption before travelling. Alcohol worsens the quality of sleep and caffeine disrupts it, since it generates artificial energy in your body and makes you stay awake. You should also stay hydrated to counteract the dry air of the aircraft cabin or that the air conditioning can cause.
Regulate exposure to light. This is the best thing you can do before travelling to try to control jet lag. Exposure to natural light is the greatest regulator of your biological rhythm. The main objective is to adapt to the schedule of your destination. It’s preferable that if you travel west you try to make the trip in the morning and, conversely, if you travel east, try to arrive in the afternoon. It’s always a good idea to wear sunglasses to try to avoid a lot of light.
There are no specific medications to treat jet lag, but melatonin is known to help control circadian dysrhythmia. Melatonin brings on sleep and has positive effects for people who have trouble sleeping.
Melatonin is like a sign of darkness for the body, it has the opposite effect of bright light. It’s important to know when to take it. If you travel east, you can take it at night in the local time zone (where you have travelled to) until you adapt. If you travel west, you can take it in the morning.
As a final tip we recommend doing aerobic exercise, since it decreases sleep latency time (how long it takes to fall asleep) and reduces waking up at night, improving the quality of sleep.