I never believed in “jet lag,” thinking it was a first-world problem until it happened to me on a trip to Europe. My first day in Portugal, I was tired the whole day, had a heavy, throbbing head, and couldn’t shake this “unsettled feeling.” It didn’t help that I woke up many times throughout the night, and I felt terrible the next day. Overall, it was an awful experience.
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Here’s my advice for dealing with jet lag.
First, What’s Jet Lag?
Jet lag is a temporary sleep problem that can affect anyone who quickly travels across multiple time zones.
Your body has its own internal clock, or circadian rhythms, that signals your body when to stay awake and when to sleep. Jet lag occurs because your body’s clock remains synced to your original time zone, instead of to the time zone where you’ve traveled. The more time zones crossed, the more likely you are to experience jet lag.
It shouldn’t worry you much as it goes away on its own within several days.
Symptoms of Jet Lag
- Difficulty sleeping at bedtime and waking up in the morning
- Tiredness and exhaustion
- Difficulty staying awake during the day
- Difficulty concentrating or functioning at your usual level
- A general feeling of not being well
- Poor sleep quality
- concentration and memory problems
- Some case: stomach problems, constipation or diarrhea
How to Manage Jet Lag
Jet lag cannot be prevented, but there are things you can do to reduce its effects.
▸ Before traveling, gradually adjust your home schedule to match more closely the schedule of your destination. This requires eating and sleeping at slightly different times (earlier or later, depending on your destination) than you are used to.
▸ Avoid or minimize alcohol and caffeine intake, which can affect sleep, contribute to dehydration, and worsen jet-lag symptoms.
▸ Keep yourself hydrated as dehydration can exacerbate symptoms of jet lag.
▸ Try to sleep on the plane if it’s nighttime at your destination. Earplugs, headphones and eye masks can help block out noise and light. If it’s daytime where you’re going, resist the urge to sleep.
After You Arrive
▸ Change your sleep schedule to the new time zone as quickly as possible. Try not to sleep until the local nighttime, no matter how tired you are. And eat meals at appropriate local time.
▸ Set an alarm to avoid oversleeping in the morning.
▸ Go outside during the day. Exposure to natural light may help you adapt to the new environment more quickly.
I was able to adjust to the shift by the fourth day, although I wish I had planned ahead of time. I was hardly awake on the first and second days; I felt like the days flew by and I didn’t have time to appreciate them. No, I did not take any medications or supplements (despite being offered Melatonin). Don’t be concerned about jet lag; it’s simply a matter of adjusting and “getting used to.”