“What time is it where you are?
Tryin’ to figure out the time zones makin’ me crazy
You say good morning
When it’s midnight
Going out of my head
I wake up to your sunset
And it’s driving me mad
And my heart, heart, heart is so jetlagged”
Adapted from “Jet Lag” – Lyrics by Martin, Petersen, Bouvier, Comeau & Sipe
That about sums up jet lag…well, maybe…actually jet lag is defined as: “a condition marked by fatigue, insomnia, and irritability that is caused by air travel through changing time zones.”
Sound familiar? Well, I’ll bet you didn’t know that it even has a fancy medical name. So, if you really want to impress your friends (or just scare them) tell them you had desynchronosis on your last trip!
In not-so-simple medical jargon, desynchronosis is defined as “a physiological condition which results from alterations to the body’s circadian rhythms resulting from rapid long-distance transmeridian (east–west or west–east) travel on a (typically jet) aircraft. It is classified as one of the circadian rhythm sleep disorders.”
Whew…well, nice to know it wasn’t all just my imagination but for the sake of simplicity, I’ll just be referring to it as jet lag here!
In case you were wondering…
How long does it last?
Well, not only does it depend on what direction you’re going, but sources disagree on how long it typically lasts. Minimum seems to be 24-48 hours although it can take up to one day per time zone traveled.
For obvious reasons, north-south flights that do not cross time zones do not cause jet lag (although you could certainly have travel fatigue just from flying). Sources also tell us that it is easier to adjust when traveling from east-to-west than west-to-east.
Of course, this can vary from individual to individual. The key is to know your own body, its rhythms, and what works and doesn’t work for you.
What to Do in Flight
1. Hydrate: Drink plenty of water and juices. Avoid beverages and foods with caffeine as well as alcohol. (Darn! There goes the Snickers bar and the glass of wine…oh well.) Personally I do always buy extra water before boarding, especially for long flights.
2. Sleep Aids: Well, it is generally advised not to take medication(s) to aid sleep but I know a lot of people who do and it works for them. Even melatonin has its fans and detractors.Personally, I do take a homeopathic called “No Jet Lag” and it helps. My advice: Do what works for you, just keep it legal, OK?
3. Move: Stretch, walk to keep the circulation, well, circulating!
4. Set Your Watch: Set watches and clocks ahead to your destination time zone to start adjusting to the change.
5. Mental Reset: Start thinking new time zone, not what time it is “at home” (unless of course you’re thinking of calling home!)
6. Catch Some ZZZZ’s: If possible, draw the shade and sleep during the evening hours in the destination city, even if it is still daylight outside of the airplane. Bring your own earplugs and sleep mask if they work for you. For those of us who never can seem to sleep on an airplane, at least try to take some cat naps and rest.
7. Be Comfy: Sensible is the key word here. High heels, tight clothes, I see it all, but not for me! Be comfortable and definitely layer. Some planes are warm, some are cold. Bring a scarf or shawl and/or light weight jacket or sweater and warm socks. Wear shoes you can easily slip on for potty calls.
What to Do When You Arrive
8. Get Some Fresh Air & Sunshine: Try to get outdoors and get some sunlight to help reset that internal tick tock.
9. Stay Awake: Try to avoid naps and stay awake until 10 p.m. This is easier if you can arrive in the late afternoon or early evening (which is what is advised when booking international flights).
10. Pace Yourself: For me, it seems that the excitement of getting to my destination helps to diminish any jet lag symptoms, but it is best to pace yourself the first day or two so that you don’t overdo it. Of course, when you have to come home and just get back to work, that’s a different story!
More Great Advice:
Please share how you cope with jet lag? Or do you?
References: The Free Dictionary, Wikipedia