Jet Lag – symptoms and solutions

Don’t you just hate jet lag? Just when you think you’ve escaped work for two precious weeks and enjoy your summer holiday, jet lag strikes and you feel exhausted, yet you can’t sleep at the right time, you’ve got headaches, can’t eat properly and you just don’t feel ‘right’.

The effects of jet lag can be so bad it can affect your enjoyment of your holiday for days.

Jet lag affects us when our body’s rhythms are out of sync with the time at our destination – the body operates on a 24-hour cycle, and travelling to a different time zone alters the body’s natural rhythm leading to jet lag. The more time zones you travel through the worse the symptoms can be, and travelling west to east is worse than travelling east to west, as it’s harder to adapt to a reduced number of hours in a day than it is to add a few hours.

The symptoms of jet lag can include all or some of the following:

  • Fatigue and lethargy
  • Insomnia
  • Lack of concentration
  • Disorientation
  • Headaches
  • Loss of appetite and nausea
  • Digestive problems
  • Dehydration
  • Swollen hands and feet
  • Irritability or anxiety

Generally, the length of your flight doesn’t cause jet lag, it’s the amount of time zones you travel through. For every time zone travelled through it can take up to a day to recover!

While there is no miracle cure, you can take steps to minimize the effects of jet lag.

Dehydration
As dehydration can play an important part in jet lag it is important to drink plenty of fluids – water ideally, however, fruit juice or herbal teas will be okay. Try to avoid drinking alcohol and caffeine.

Adapting to time differences
Try to adapt to your destination time as soon as possible. Set your watch to the destination time as soon as you board the plane, try to eat at times appropriate to your destination time, not departure time.

If you are due to arrive at your destination in the morning, try sleeping on the plane. Yes, I do know how difficult it is to sleep in such cramped conditions, but try taking off your shoes, getting as comfortable as possible and just closing your eyes – an eye mask and ear plugs will help block out distractions.

If you are due to arrive at night, do try to stay awake during the flight. If you sleep on the plane you will find it difficult sleeping when you arrive and it will take more time to adjust during your holiday.

You may find it useful to gradually adjust your daily routine by an hour a day for a few days before you travel – getting up an hour earlier or staying up later for a few days may help you adjust quicker when you arrive.

If it’s daytime when you arrive and you feel tired, try to resist the temptation to sleep. Get outside into the sunshine. Daylight and sunshine are a major factor in resetting your body clock. If you simply must sleep, set your alarm and try not to sleep for more than an hour.