Jet lag is something we take seriously.
Over the years, we’ve discovered that jet lag is a lot more than just the fatigue and dehydration that can accompany long haul plane flights.
Jet lag is a very real combination of symptoms caused by travelling abruptly across time zones.
Apparently, our bodies automatically knows when it is day or night because of the action of sunlight on brain chemicals or neurotransmitters. Bodily processes such as temperature, hormones, digestion, heart rate and blood pressure are timed on this 24-hour physiological ‘clock’.
Travelling to a different time zone disrupts the rhythm of this body clock.
After a long flight, the fatigue plus the mismatch with local time can leave you ready to fall asleep just after lunch, or wide awake in the middle of the night.
Jet lag symptoms
Health authorities say the symptoms of jet lag may include fatigue; sleepiness; an upset stomach; irritability; apathy; and even impaired judgement.
The good news is that not everyone suffers these symptoms – and it is not necessarily correct that your first day after a flight will be written off.
Depending on the individual, the body needs anywhere from a few days to a few weeks to fully acclimatise to the new time zone.
However, there are a few steps that seem to work for us in reducing the impact of jet lag.
- When flying westward, e.g. Sydney to London, try to go to sleep as late as possible for two to three days before you leave. We find this makes it easier to adapt to the new location, although body clock are generally less confused if you are head west.
- Leave home as rested as possible.
- During the flight, drink plenty of water and choose light foods.
- If possible, walk around the cabin when you can.
- Have at least one watch set to your destination’s local time. Every time we look at the watch, we are mentally preparing before we even land.
- If you sleep on the plane, gradually try to align it with sleep time in your destination.
- When you arrive, stay awake until an early local bedtime. On one of our first visits to London, we allowed ourselves to doze off at 5p.m, only to wake up at midnight, raring to hit the sights.
- On arrival, plan a good walk while the sun is still up. Sunlight seems to help reset our body clocks.
- We’ve never used medication specifically to help overcome jet lag and flying fatigue.
Technology is also helping to tackle jet lag.
For example, the 787 Dreamliner from Boeing is said to have features to reduce the effects of jet lag, including an enhanced air filtration system and special ambient lighting.
We are yet to test the Dreamliner, but would love to trial this advanced aircraft and report on how its anti-jet lag features work in practice.