Is jet lag stopping you from fully enjoying your vacation?
Click start to play today’s Spell It, where we learn to ‘train’ ourselves to minimise the effects of jet lag.
Also known as circadian dysrhythmia, jet lag is a temporary sleep disorder where the body’s internal clock doesn’t sync up with the time cues in your destination, like daylight, night time and meal time.
All said and done, however, jet lag doesn’t have to ruin your trip. You can actually do most of the acclimatising to your destination a few days in advance, according to a December 2023 report in the National Geographic. Here are some ways to adjust:
1. Wake up and eat in a new place
Always try to book a flight that lands during the day, since being out in sunlight helps to reset your body clock. If you’re landing in the morning or early afternoon, having a coffee can help give you the jolt of caffeine you need to acclimatise. A September 2023 study published in the journal Chaos also found that eating a big breakfast at your destination can help both your gut and your brain adjust to the new time zone. In fact, the study concluded that skipping the evening meal, and instead, filling up at breakfast, generated the quickest re-adjustments to people’s circadian rhythms.
2. Block out light
The key to getting some sleep on the plane is blocking out light – it’s why overnight flights usually have the lights off. If your destination is a few hours ahead of your time zone, wear sunglasses until you’re ready to sleep, and then put on a sleeping mask when it’s time. When your brain realises it’s dark, it starts to produce melatonin, which is a chemical that initiates sleep.
3. Get cosy
A German April 2021 study published in the preprint server for biology, bioRxiv, found that worrying about jet lag made it a whole lot worse. Instead of focusing on how to avoid it, try to make your trip pleasant, comfortable and silent, so that you can catch some sleep. A neck pillow with head support, noise-cancelling headphones or silicone earplugs are all worth investing in, if it improves your comfort level.
4. Plan in advance
If you’re able to, try adjusting your bed time, light exposure and caffeine intake a few days before your trip. Several smartphone apps are available to help you personalise pre-travel schedules and give you tips on the best times of day to fly.