Jet travel is a marvel. Flying the friendly skies means trips that once took days, weeks, or even months can be completed in a matter of hours.
However, arriving at distant destinations so quickly comes at a price. Since our brains and bodies work in regular daily cycles (known as the circadian rhythm) affecting wakefulness, sleep, body temperature, eating, and other functions, any disruption can have a negative effect.
Because adequate slumber is vital for health and well-being, normal wake-sleep cycles are essential. Feeling disoriented, sleepy, cranky, and sluggish are the unpleasant effects of crossing three or more time zones.
Jet lag is the name given to the resulting disturbance of a person’s normal sleep/wake and dark/light cycles.
Unfortunately for travellers going from the U.S. to Europe or Asia, jet lag is more of a problem for fliers heading east. That’s because the day feels longer when flying eastward.
In addition, the elderly and people with certain medical conditions are likely to experience more pronounced symptoms.
Even though jet lag is limited to west-east and east-west travellers, flying from the northern to southern hemisphere comes with its own difficulties.
Since the seasons are not the same, seasonal allergies may kick in. For example, fall hay fever sufferers may sniffle and sneeze when it is spring at home but autumn at their destination.
If all this makes a person feel like staying close to home, rest assured that there are remedies for jet lag. With a little preparation, flying to distant destinations can be an enjoyable experience from the moment you arrive until you are back home.
These five tips can ensure a pleasant, grogginess-free trip whether you are flying for business or pleasure.
Dehydration can make anyone feel lethargic and uncomfortable. Because airplane cabin air is dry, a lack of fluid can intensify the discomfort.
The solution is simple: Be sure to drink lots of water before boarding, while on the plane, and after arrival.
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Stay away from coffee and in-flight cocktails, since caffeine and alcohol are major causes of dehydration and both can have negative effects on your sleep.
2. Light Exposure
Several days before departure, increase your sunlight exposure at specific times of day. If you are heading east, aim for morning daylight; westward travellers benefit from afternoon and evening sunshine.
If natural light is at a premium, using a light box or another bright light at the appropriate times can ease the adjustment to the new time zone.
Several days before departing, move bedtime up one hour every night if you’re going east, or one hour later for a westbound trip. Getting enough sleep is essential, as too little shut-eye can worsen jet lag.
Try to keep a relaxed schedule of eating and sleeping for a few days prior to travel. Once on board, reset your watch to the time at your destination. Snooze if it is currently night where you are headed, using eye masks, headphones, and earplugs to block out unwanted disturbances.
Remaining awake works better, with no more than a short nap if you can’t fight off sleep, if it’s daytime there.
At your destination, a bath works wonders for travel-sore muscles and relaxation. Body temperature drops afterward, which may help you feel drowsy.
Moving your muscles is a proven energy booster and raises the level of endorphins, your body’s own feel-good and pain-relieving hormones.
When outdoors soaking up the sun before travel, engage in mild exercise. On the plane, get up, stretch, and walk around.
If you need some tips, many in-flight magazines provide suggestions for beneficial exercises.
For better or worse, health supplements are probably the most effective approach to fighting the effects of jet lag.
One supplement in particular that demonstrates the promise in keeping jet lag at bay:
Melatonin (getting to sleep)
Melatonin is released by your body in the evening, making you drowsy and ready for sleep. A supplement of the hormone has been shown to be of significant benefit in averting and easing jet lag.
Adults traveling to a destination at least five time zones away, particularly if they are going east, stand to gain the most from a supplement.
A moderate dose is effective: as little as 0.5 mg can do the trick, and more than 5 mg has no added benefit. If you have travelled east, take the supplement at bedtime. Morning is the time to take melatonin at a western destination.
If you have a long distance trip on the horizon, start preparing now in order to effect the effects of jet lag later.
Following these five suggestions will keep you at your best during and after your trip.
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