Travelling is one of life’s greatest pleasures. There’s nothing quite like the adrenaline rush that comes with exploring new places, getting to know new people, and learning about different cultures and ways of life in other parts of the globe. However, travelling is not all sunshine and butterflies. Like most things, it comes with its own set of downsides and challenges. For instance, jet lag and fatigue are inevitable issues that travellers often face, especially when crossing multiple time zones. Not only will these affect your energy levels, but it can also disrupt your circadian rhythm and overall well-being. Hence, it is crucial to alleviate them effectively. In this article, we will explore what causes jet lag and travel fatigue and provide practical strategies to combat them to ensure that you will arrive at your destination full of vitality ready to enjoy your trip.
Understanding Jet Lag and Travel Fatigue
Jet lag, also known as desynchronosis, occurs when your internal body clock, or circadian rhythm, becomes out of sync with the new time zone you are in. It often results from rapid, long-haul travel, especially when crossing multiple time zones. The symptoms of jet lag often include trouble falling and staying asleep, fatigue, daytime drowsiness, irritability, digestive issues, and impaired cognitive performance.
On the other hand, travel fatigue is a more general term used to describe the overall weariness and discomfort associated with long journeys. It may encompass jet lag, but it also includes factors like physical strain, stress, and physical distress experienced during travel, like backache due to staying seated for too long during long-haul flights.
Tips to Alleviate Jet Lag and Travel Fatigue
Before Your Trip
If you prepare early, there are various ways by which you can prevent or at least lessen the effects of jet lag and travel fatigue, such as:
- Choose Flight Times Wisely
When choosing your flight times, opt for flights that arrive at your destination during the local daytime hours because it is easier to adjust to a new time zone during the day.
- Gradually Adjust Your Sleep Schedule
Get to know the time zone of the country you will be travelling to and start to adjust your sleep schedule even before your actual trip. Sleep and wake up an hour earlier or later than you normally would in your time zone. Doing this for consecutive days prior to your trip will help you acclimate your body to the new time zone of your target destination.
- Stay Hydrated
About 60% of the human body is made up of water. Hence, water is essential for many—if not all—bodily functions. As such, it should come as no surprise that dehydration can exacerbate the effects of jet lag. If you want to lessen the severity of your jet lag, make sure you are well-hydrated before, during, and even after your journey.
- Eat a Healthy Diet
Consume a light and balanced meal before your flight. Avoid heavy, calorie-dense, and greasy foods, as they can disrupt your digestion and sleep. Not to mention, it can cause gastrointestinal distress during your flight, which is something you would want to avoid at all costs.
Engage in regular physical activity before your trip to help reduce stress and enhance your overall fitness. This can help mitigate the effects of travel fatigue.
During Your Flight
Here’s what you should do during your flight to ease fatigue and physical discomfort brought upon by travelling long distances.
- Drink Water
Before anything else, make sure you stay well hydrated during the flight, especially because the dry air in the cabin can easily make your eyes and nasal passages dry, which could lead to dehydration.
- Avoid Alcohol and Caffeine
When we say you need to stay hydrated throughout the flight, it should be with water and not beverages such as alcohol and caffeine. Not only will these cause further dehydration, but they can also disrupt your sleep cycle, making it even harder to sleep and get some rest during and after your flight.
- Get Up and Move
Sitting for long hours on end is not only uncomfortable, it is also bad for your health. Long-haul flights are a known risk factor for deep vein thrombosis (DVT), especially for those prone to blood clotting, because sitting for long hours can impede the blood circulation in your legs. Hence, you should take short walks around the cabin to prevent blood clots and leg stiffness. Take trips to the bathroom or perform in-seat exercises to help your blood circulation and keep your muscles engaged.
After Your Arrival
Upon touchdown, be sure to follow the following tips to ensure you do not end up with severe jet lag and fatigue.
- Rest and Nap Strategically
If you arrive at your destination during the local daytime, do your best to stay awake so that your body can be in sync with the local time zone. However, if you arrive by nighttime, you can take short naps, but make sure to set an alarm and wake up in the morning, no matter how little sleep you had the night before. To make the most of your nap, use eye masks and earplugs so that you can create a more sleep-conducive environment.
- Get Natural Light Exposure
Exposure to sunlight is an essential factor in resetting the cues of your body clock so that it can adjust efficiently to the new time zone. Thus, it is a good idea to spend time outdoors during the day to help you sleep faster come nighttime.
- Aim for Gradual Adjustment
Here’s the thing about circadian rhythms: they cannot be adjusted at the drop of a hat. It takes time for the body to adapt to its new time zone. Thus, you should aim to gradually change your schedule to align with the local time zone. Avoid the temptation of napping excessively, as it can prolong the adjustment process.
- Take Supplements
To help your body adjust better to the new timezone, consider using supplements like melatonin or natural CBD oil. Melatonin is a naturally occurring neurotransmitter that signals the brain when it is time to fall asleep. Thus, taking synthetic melatonin will help you fall asleep faster. CBD, on the other hand, is a cannabinoid that modulates the receptors in our body’s very own endocannabinoid system. It exerts various effects on the body, including alleviating stress, fatigue, and insomnia. Its analgesic and healing properties help reduce muscle aches, which helps you feel more relaxed and at ease, thereby prompting you to fall asleep faster so that you can rest immediately and get in sync with the new time zone effortlessly. Melatonin and CBD oil also ensure better sleep quality, which is essential to prevent fatigue. That way, you will wake up refreshed and energised to take on the day.
Disclaimer: Before taking any supplement, make sure to consult with a medical professional—especially if you are taking any maintenance medications—to prevent any untoward drug-drug interaction.
- Stay Active
Engage in light physical activity, such as light exercises or stretching. It is also ideal to go on walks to improve your overall blood circulation and reduce both mental and physical fatigue.
- Avoid Eating Heavy Meals at Night
Opt for lighter meals in the evening and eat them three to four hours before bedtime to prevent digestive issues that can disrupt your sleep.
- Create a comfortable sleep environment. Make sure it is cool, dark, and quiet so that you can rest comfortably.
- As much as possible, avoid drinking alcohol and coffee because these can worsen your sleep quality.
- Avoid electronics before going to bed because the blue light emitted by your phone or gadget can disrupt your circadian rhythm and sleep. Avoid staring at electronic screens like your phone, tablet, computer monitor, TV, etc, at least an hour before bedtime.
Jet lag and travel fatigue are inevitable challenges that come with travelling long distances, but it doesn’t have to ruin your trip. With careful planning and by employing the right strategies, you can minimise how unavoidable problems like jet lag and fatigue will impact your trip. Remember that it is essential to be patient with your body, and you need to give it the time it needs to adjust to the new time zone you are in. By gradually adapting your routine, staying hydrated, and following the tips and tricks laid out in this guide, you will be able to arrive safely at your destination, full of vitality and ready to make the most of your journey. Safe travels!