Jetlag, also referred to as desynchronosis, is an unpleasant aspect of traveling but one which is ultimately unavoidable. Considering the amount of time zones worldwide, there is a good chance that one will cross at least one time zone during their flight. Jetlag has been known to cause insomnia, anxiety and nausea, but the most common symptoms are feelings of disorientation, grogginess and fatigue. Jetlag can last for the duration of the trip, or for several days after you have returned. Although jetlag affects millions of individuals worldwide, there are techniques which can minimize its impact. The first step is to understand why the body is affected by jetlag. With this knowledge, individuals who take flights will be better prepared to cope with the symptoms jetlag brings on. Why the Body is Affected by Jetlag
Jetlag is experienced by travelers because the body cannot properly adapt to a different time zone. Some individuals have more pronounced symptoms of jetlag than others. As a result of a long flight across multiple time zones, the confusion the body experiences due to jetlag stems from two main differences: one, differences in the schedules of bodily functions such as appetite, rest and thirst, and two, differences in the body's access to light and darkness. Younger people tend to adjust better and more quickly to the change in time zone, but, again, it all depends on the individual. Still, some young people experience jetlag while some older individuals may not be affected as much.
Jetlag interferes with normal circadian rhythms. This is a fancy way of referring to your internal clock that wants to be awake when it is light out and sleep when it is dark out. Any adjustment to your circadian rhythm will have an adjustment period. Getting out in the sunlight can help you to reset your circadian rhythms. Your body takes its cues from the cycles of light and dark so give it the appropriate cues. The sooner your body is exposed to the new light and dark schedule, the sooner it will adjust to the new time zone.
Jetlag also occurs due to an imbalance in the hypothalamus. Ordinarily, the hypothalamus maintains a balance of glucose and hormonal levels, as well as body temperature and blood pressure. The hypothalamus can be thrown off balance by drastic changes in light and darkness brought on by a sudden shift in time zones. As the eyes do not receive an anticipated amount of light, the brain transmits a signal to the hypothalamus that is off schedule with its normal functions.
If jetlag has affected you in the past, there is a good chance the symptoms will return. This can pose a problem to an individual who either wants to visit a distant location for pleasure, or must for business. If the trip has to be taken, it is a good idea to add a few days to the trip in order to adjust to the time changes. You will want to maintain a regular sleep schedule so that your body will have a chance to adjust to its new schedule. Constant changes will prolong the adjustment. You may want to save certain activities until the end on your trip so that you will have had time to adjust. That way you can enjoy the full experience or be ready for an important meeting without the symptoms of jetlag.
How to Lessen the Effects of Jetlag
Besides adding extra days to your itinerary so you can adjust in time for the main part of your trip, there are other, more practical ways to cope with jetlag. You can start making changes to your sleep schedule before you go on vacation so that each night you are sleeping closer to the time that you will be sleeping on your vacation. With less of an adjustment left to make by the time you arrive, you will experience less jetlag symptoms. Also, this may seem obvious, but you do not want to have caffeine for three or four hours before you plan to go to sleep. Caffeine is a stimulant and can interfere with your sleep cycle.
Exercise is essential as well. Everyone knows that staying in shape has a multitude of benefits. One such benefit is that the stamina gained from exercising can help you deal with jetlag. The better shape you are in, the more resilient your body will be when it is thrown off schedule by traversing multiple time zones. However, it is a good idea to refrain from intense exercise before bedtime. This can interfere with your sleep as much as caffeine.
Consuming alcoholic beverages a few hours before sleep can heighten the effects of jetlag as well. Alcohol causes dehydration, can amplify the need for sleep, and can cause an upset stomach as well. For these reasons, alcoholic drinks should be avoided before during or after a flight. By doing this the effects of jetlag can be marginalized.
Jetlag is a fact of life for travelers, but there are ways to lessen its effects. By giving your body plenty of sunlight, staying in shape and avoiding caffeine and alcoholic drinks, you can minimize the effect of jetlag on your vacation or business trip. Knowing that you can do something about jetlag will help you sleep well at night, and make you better prepared to cope with the effects of jetlag on your next trip.