You’ve booked your dream vacation to some far off destination and the last thing you want to deal with is jet lag. It can happen as soon as you arrive or exacerbate the post-holiday blues, and it can take up to five days to recover from. That’s a long time when you’re experiencing daytime sleepiness, nightly insomnia, a loss of appetite, clouded thinking and poor co-ordination.
So why do we get jet lag? It’s is caused when your circadian rhythm, the internal body clock that regulates sleep and waking, is disrupted. Your circadian rhythm is controlled by light and dark and the hormone melatonin - and it can be slow to adjust to a new routine.
If you’re travelling east, you might feel more jet lagged and take longer to recover than if you were travelling west. That’s because it’s easier for your body to deal with a longer day than a shorter one, and studies have found that it takes a full day to recover from each time zone you travel through.
However, it’s not all doom and gloom. There are things you can do to make jet lag easier to deal with and to help your body clock adjust a little bit faster.
Change your routine before you travel
If you’re travelling east, try going to bed an hour or two earlier and waking up earlier too. If you’re going west do the opposite. Try and do this a couple of days before your flight so you can start adjusting.
Get a good night’s sleep before you fly
People often end up having slept for just a few hours before a long flight. Whether it's due to pre-holiday excitement or a deliberate attempt to tire yourself out so that you'll sleep through the flight, it’s a big mistake. Last minute changes to your routine will only make it harder to adjust to a new time zone, and getting a good night's sleep before your flight will leave you better equipped to cope with jet lag.
Avoid alcohol and caffeine
We don’t want to be party poopers and we all know how tempting it can be to get in those airport beers, but try and avoid it for those long-haul flights. It will only increase tiredness and dehydration, making you feel so much worse. Drink lots of water instead!
Try and select a flight that arrives in the afternoon while it’s still bright, and stay up until 10 pm local time. No crazy partying on your first night - you need to get adjusted first. It’ll make your trip so much more enjoyable, we promise. If you need help falling asleep, listen to your favourite sleep app, or try meditation with our very own Simba Sleep Ambassador, Hope Bastine.
Spend time outdoors
Natural light helps your body adjust to a new routine. So when you arrive, spend as much time outdoors as possible. Try and eating three meals a day at the right times for your new time zone.
There are many ingredients that are readily available and beneficial for a goods nights sleep. Expert nutritionist Lily Soutter has put together the Dream Food recipe series; a winning combination of nutrition, science and flavour-pairing expertise to get your sleep schedule back on track. Check it out here.