Traveling long distances can make anyone tired, but it affects some people more than others. Jet lag isn't a myth; it's a real thing and there are ways to make it better.
The official definition is "a temporary sleep problem that can affect anyone who quickly travels across multiple time zones." Basically, our body's internal clock stays in one time zone while we physically travel to another, which means our bodies and our body clocks are out of sync. This is exactly what makes international travel so difficult sometimes. Since you really have no control over why it happens, you just have to prepare your body and take care of yourself. Here are a few things that happen and some tips that may help.
Flying can cause dehydration. Because of high altitudes, the atmosphere in a plane's cabin can be very dry. Combining that with drinks containing alcohol or caffeine, and the effects become worse, often causing headaches and fatigue.
You have to adjust to elevation and pressure quickly. This is why cabins are pressurized, but you'll still feel the effects on your body. Experts say cabin pressure is more like how you'd feel in high elevations. The air is thinner and there is less oxygen than you would have on the ground. This leads to swelling, ear pressure, and symptoms similar to altitude sickness.
You may feel stressed when you board a plane. You've had to deal with getting to the airport on time, checking your bags, going through the security line, finding your gate, and being around thousands of people at once, and then finally sitting in a seat that is probably less comfortable than you would like.
Drink water and avoid coffee, soft drinks, and alcohol. The number one thing you can do to avoid jet lag is to hydrate, and the best thing for that is water. Reaching for coffee or soda may be your first instinct when you're tired, but it's not the best thing to do for your body. Avoiding dehydrating beverages like alcohol or caffeine can also help you stay hydrated. If you must have alcohol to relax, try to drink water as well.
Move around the cabin frequently. This is a great way to keep your blood flowing so you can fight fatigue and swelling. It can also reduce your risk of serious health concerns that come with sitting for too long on flights, such as blood clots. Getting up and moving a little bit every 30 minutes should be enough and shouldn't disturb your fellow passengers too much.
Bring healthy plane snacks, such as nuts, energy bars, or fruit to help your body stay energized and hydrated.
Try to relieve pressure on your ears during take off. Chewing gum or eating a piece of hard candy can help relieve pressure. Noise canceling headphones and a good travel pillow can also be ways to make your flight more comfortable.
Take vitamins before flying, especially Vitamins B12, C and B. B vitamins are useful to boost your mood and give you energy, and Vitamin C can help boost your immune system and fight sickness caused by viruses and bacteria. Drinking fruit juice is a good way to get your vitamins and hydrate at the same time.
Try to trick your circadian rhythm. One way to do this is to regulate your exposure to bright light. If you're traveling westward, exposing yourself to light in the evening helps you adjust to a later time zone. If you're traveling eastward, exposing yourself to morning light is better to adapt to earlier time zones. Another way is to take melatonin to help you sleep. Take a supplement a half hour before you want to sleep so you can adjust to your destination's time zone. Some experts suggest sleeping on your flight only if it is night time where you're traveling. Think about it this way: if you're not planning to sleep during the day where you're going, try not to sleep on your flight (even if it was night time when you took off). This may be challenging, but it's one way to reset your clock.
Once you get to your destination, take your time and try to avoid unnecessary stress so you can adjust to your new schedule. Plan your meal times around your current time zone, arrive to anywhere you can early so you don't feel rushed, and schedule some time to recover from your flight before you are on the go again. It's guaranteed to make your trip more enjoyable!