Jet lag was not something I had experienced until I moved here from Scotland, and let me tell you my first time was a bit of a nightmare. If I recall I arrived in beautiful Cairns, met my partner’s friends and family very briefly/grumpily and then slept for about a week. Since then, I have had a look into ways in which I can get around the insane sleeping pattern, exhaustion, irritability and all of the other not so fun parts that come with travelling across the world.
First, we should know our enemy. What actually causes jet lag?
Jet lag messes up our melatonin levels and our circadian rhythms, the things that tell us when it’s time to sleep and time to wake up. These little things being messed up can have a terrible domino effect on the bod. It can lead to insomnia, bowel issues, lack of appetite, memory and concentration issues. Jet lag will totally depend on the individual, such as age or whether you already suffer from sleep issues. But there are things we can all do to try and make the transition as easy as possible.
Tip 1: Stay Active
It can be so hard to muster the energy after two back-to-back 12 hour flights, but it’s a great way to start making yourself feel normal. One of the biggest issues with jet lag is how badly melatonin cycles are affected, so ensuring you’re outside, getting sunlight and reminding your body what time of day it is can help. As soon as you land, just leave your bits and pieces in the hotel and go out exploring. Don’t be tempted to just have a little lie-down – shower up and get active.
Tip 2: Simulate New Environment
It can help to start simulating your new sleep patterns just before you leave on your trip, to warn your body of what is to come. Just pull your bedtime half an hour earlier every night for a week or so, to start preparing for your new sleep time. You can also start preparing on the plane: it helped me to have a watch showing the UK time, while my phone changed time zones. This allowed me to try to stay awake or get to sleep at appropriate times. Don’t force yourself to sleep, but try to rest as much as you can at the right times.
Keep On Moving
It is extremely hard to simulate normal day-to-day life when you’re stuck in a flying tube full of people. Where you can, go for walks around the plane. Nip to the bathroom; walk up and down the aisle; do some stretching. Also look at doing more mentally challenging activities such as puzzles, reading, and watching comedies to keep the brain active too.
Tip 4: Calm Yourself
You can use all sorts of methods on the flight and post flight to help you drift off at the right times. Essential oils, such as lavender oil, can be great for calming you down and helping you snooze. I swear by a lavender-filled silky sleep mask, the type often used in restorative yoga. You can buy these online (sometimes in pillow form and you can attach a strap) or they are really easy to make yourself. Downloading a guided meditation app, such as Head Space, can be great as well which has specific sleep meditations as well as some for anxiety and stress.
Tip 5: Stay Hydrated
One of the best things you can do is stay hydrated before, during and after a flight, to keep your system humming and staying resistant to germs circulating in the cabin. Unfortunately, this means not hitting the bar right before you fly. As much as this might offer a way to soothe your nerves or help you get to sleep, you won’t feel the best when you wake up. If you are going to partake – make sure you’re balancing things out with a glass of water, and stick to just a couple. Not drinking and retaining enough water can make you feel fatigue, headaches and nausea, and aeroplanes are the perfect environment for draining you of all moisture. Feel free to mix up your hydration goals with your favourite herbal teas to keep things interesting.
Tip 6: Have A Nice Flight
This may be a lot easier said than done, but there are tonnes of ways that you can make your flight as pleasant as possible. Firstly, wear comfy clothes that you’re happy to snooze in. Go for things like yoga tights, comfy jumpers, slip on shoes – the sorts of things you can easily navigate and snuggle up in. If you find it hard to sleep without a blanket, you might like to take a big scarf to curl up under. I have a special enormous scarf I take on flights, which isn’t very thick but folds out to the size of a small blanket.
Don’t let yourself get bored! This is so important, as boredom leads to frustration which is going to make relaxation and sleep impossible. I have an Amazon Fire which was not only cheap (and yellow which is adorable), but it can store books, tv shows, films and audio books as well as puzzle apps.
Of course there is no definite cure for jet lag and it is always going to be tough to adjust, but if you take all of these precautions you can usually cut down on that post plane madness. Stay comfy, stay hydrated and get some rest! Make that holiday as enjoyable as you can from day one!
About the Author – Natasha Porritt is a Studio Pilates Instructor.