When it comes to travelling, it’s not all white sandy beaches, jugs of margaritas and fleeting Tinder trysts. One of the biggest blocks to having a good time while you’re on holiday is that perennial, pesky problem: jet lag.
What is jet lag and what are the symptoms?
Jet lag is when your normal sleep pattern is disturbed after a long flight and the main symptoms, according to the NHS, can include difficulty sleeping at bedtime and waking up in the morning, tiredness and exhaustion and concentration and memory problems. Jet lag can also be associated with indigestion, constipation, diarrhoea and bloating.
What are the best ways to beat jetlag?
To help travellers make the most of their holidays, Dr Ciara Yeates, GP at London Doctors Clinic, has shared her top tips to kick jet lag.
The first thing it’s important to note is that if you’re only going away for two or three days, you should consider sticking with your home time zone, to minimise disruption to your body clock. If possible, eat and sleep at the times you would at home.
But if you’re planning to take a longer trip, the following steps should help you make the most of your holiday.
1. Change your bedtime
“This one is simple enough – begin adjusting your body clock several days before departure. For eastward travel bring your bedtime forward by one to two hours and for westward travel put it back. This will make the time shift less dramatic and easier to adjust to when you arrive.”
2. Co-ordinating flights
“If possible try to book a flight which arrives at your destination during the early evening, and then stay awake until about 10pm before going to bed.”
During the flight
3. Set your watches
“As soon as the plane doors shut, change your watch to reflect the local time at your destination. There is no value in thinking constantly about what the time might be in the UK or when you would normally be sleeping.”
4. Tactically plan your naps
“If it is night time when you arrive in your destination, then try to nap. On planes this can be difficult so make sure you bring along the essentials to help you sleep: a comfortable travel pillow, noise cancelling headphones and an eye mask. It is also a good idea to download a meditation podcast to help you sleep, although many airlines already have these.”
5. Steer clear of the in-flight bar
“While on the plane it is tempting to have a few drinks with your meals, but it is best to avoid alcohol as it will disrupt your sleep pattern and can impact on your quality of sleep. If you are eating stick to light, easy-to-digest meals and avoid rich foods or large meals.”
6. Don’t give in to sleep
“The easiest way to adjust quickly is to stay up until 10pm local time and then go to bed as you normally would.”
7. Limit your daytime naps
“If you absolutely must nap and are arriving earlier in the day then ensure you never sleep for more than two hours. If you are napping make sure you set your alarm clock or have a wake-up call as it can otherwise be very easy to sleep through. If you oversleep on the first day of arrival you will find it much harder to adjust to the local time.”
8. Get out and explore
“The most powerful stimulus to get your brain adjusted to the new time zone is sunlight. Our body clock is governed by one of the more primitive parts of our brains and sunlight is a big trigger of our day-night rhythm. Pick something to sight-see and have a more relaxed first day strolling around exploring your new surroundings.”
9. Avoid all stimulants before bed
“Tempting as they may be to help keep you awake, you should try to not rely in stimulants to perk you up. Alcohol and caffeine both act as stimulants so you should avoid these, particularly three to four hours before bedtime.”