What Is Jet Lag?

Jet lag, or jet lag disorder, is a state of confusion of your circadian rhythm due to changes in time zones. When you travel to a destination in a different zone, it can be hard to adapt to the new time, which can affect your body and mind in many different ways; insomnia, drowsiness, lack of concentration, digestive problems, mood swings, changes in appetite, etc. The duration and intensity of jet lag vary from one individual to another, but there are a few things you can do to make it more manageable.


Coping With Jet Lag

  • Start adjusting before you go

Photo by  Jared Rice  on  Unsplash

Photo by Jared Rice on Unsplash

Make sure you are well rested when you leave home. If possible, plan your trip properly to be fully prepared and ready a couple days before departure. Leaving home in rush, after spending your last night packing or taking care of final details will most surely negatively impact the first few days of your trip. Leaving home fresh and rested will go a long way in preventing and recovering from jet lag. Try to adapt to your destination’s time zone in the days preceding your departure to smooth your integration. You can ease your way into your new schedule before you go by adjusting your sleep of 1 hour per night per time zone you are going to travel (same can be done to adapt to your new meal schedule).

  • If you can't adjust ahead, do it upon arrival

Depending on how big the time difference is between your home and destination, this might tough. If you feel like you can’t make it through the day, try taking a nap in the plane or at your hotel. Plan for an easy first day, without too much excitement and exhausting activities. Seize the opportunity to explore the neighbourhood and spot the things you’d like to visit in the following days. If you land in the evening or at night, try not to sleep in the plane to arrive already tired and easily sleep through your first night. You can consider sleep-aid medicine if needed, natural or pharmaceutical. Also try to jump into your destination’s mealtime habits as soon as possible, to help your body adapt to your new schedule.

  • Use apps to help you plan your light exposure and sleep schedule

Certain apps, like f.lux and Twilight, can help you get better sleep by changing the colour of your device’s screen to limit the blue light emissions in the evening, as it has been suggested that exposure to electronic devices’ blue light interferes with your natural sleep rhythm. There are also apps to help you cope with jet lag, such as Entrain, Jet Lag Rooster and Timeshifter, by optimizing your new sleep schedule before, during and/or after your trip based on the time differences and your original circadian rhythm.

  • Try to maintain a good hygiene

As obvious as this may seem, eating healthy food and drinking plenty of water can help your body recover quickly; high-sugar food, caffeine and alcohol are stimulating, so be careful when you consume them. Getting a good workout (finding a local gym, going on a hike or a nice long walk around the city) can help you balance your energy. If you find yourself feeling groggy, try taking a cold shower. If this doesn’t wake you up, I don’t know what will ;)

Red-Eye Flight

Red-eye means you’ll be flying overnight. While this might seem enticing (significantly lower price, possibility of gaining an extra work or vacation day, etc.) or sometimes unavoidable, you should consider a couple things before booking a red-eye flight.

Photo by  Marco Brito  on  Unsplash

Photo by Marco Brito on Unsplash

  • What is the time difference between your home and destination?

If the time difference between your departure and landing cities, combined to your flight time means you’ll land in the morning, you’ll spend the first night of your trip in a plane, which might have a huge impact on the rest of your stay. Accumulated fatigue might affect your energy level throughout your trip, depending on the duration of your trip and how well you usually adapt to change in schedules. If the time difference between the two cities and flight time means you’ll arrive in the afternoon or early in the evening, try to take a nap in the plane without sleeping the whole time and make your first night at the destination a long and restful one (don't plan early morning activities in the first day or two).

  • Are you an easy sleeper?

Do you sleep like a log or are you more of a princess and the pea type? If you have trouble sleeping to begin with or find yourself uncomfortable away from your own bed, you should definitely avoid red-eye flights. If you suffer from neck, back or leg injuries, it might not be a good idea either, as you’ll have very limited position options. If you are the type of person who can fall asleep anywhere and anytime, you might be a good candidate for red-eye flights. Bring a pillow if you can (a regular one or a good neck pillow) or plush jacket that you can roll into a ball and try to get a window seat (it is much more comfortable leaning on the wall than sitting upright). Also make sure you bring a blanket/sarong, comfortable clothes, earplugs and an eye mask.

  • Is the money you’ll save worth the trouble?

Yes, red-eye flights are cheaper. You’ll also probably save on lodging as you’ll spend your first night in the plane. That being said, upon arrival, you’ll have to either rent a pay-per-hour hotel room to take a shower and a nap, find some luggage storage or carry your stuff around all day (or at least until your room is ready). It’s not impossible to deal with, but it sure is inconvenient, especially when you're exhausted and potentially a bit grumpy. If you decide to get a red-eye flight (or don’t have a choice), try to go to a nice restaurant upon arrival where you can get a decent meal, hang out for a while and make a game plan.

Photo by  Cassidy Kelley  on  Unsplash


Jetlag Upon Return

When you land and start your trip, no matter how bad you are affected by jet lag, you have the excitement of travelling on your side to help you cope with it. The same can rarely be said about going back home. Between the piles of work waiting for you at the office, the post-travel blues, the upset stomach that sometimes carry on upon return and the afflicting effects of jet lag, returning from a trip can be quite rough. Use the tips previously mentioned to help you cope with the change in time zones, be patient with yourself, try not planning too much work or activities for your first week back home and repeat yourself that it was totally worth it because you made memories that will last a lifetime!