Jet lag is considered a medical condition, yet the cause is quite clear: long distance international travel crossing multiple time zones. Scientific studies by the CDC into the science of jet lag have shown how it effects the body and can be quite debilitating, both physically and mentally. As a travel writer, I travel internationally frequently, both westward to Asia and eastward to Europe. Here are my top five ways to beat jet lag:
Surrender to it
Know that you will be tired and just off a bit after a long flight. Science shows the effects of jet lag can be worse than illness, alcohol intoxication or even sleep deprivation. Give yourself a day to adjust before planning meetings or other activities that require thinking. I usually go with what my body feels like. If I’m tired on a long flight I will sleep. If I am tired on arrival, I will try to stay up, but if my schedule will allow it, I will take a long nap.
Prepare for it
Start adjusting your schedule before the trip, a few hours a day. If you are traveling eastward, like from the U.S. to Europe, exposing yourself to bright light late at night can help the body clock adjust. If you are headed west, like from the U.S. to Asia, exposing yourself to bright light earlier and earlier in the day can also help. Altering meals to the earlier schedule can also help. Scientific studies have shown that for eastbound travel, jet lag can last a number of days equal to two-thirds of the number of time zones crossed. For westbound flights, the day count is about half the number of time zones.
Scientific studies by the American Academy of Sleep Medicine showed medications can help offset the effects of jet lag. The use of a sedative like Valium or a sleep aid like Ambien can help force the body to get restful sleep in situations like a long flight. Studies also showed the use of a mild stimulant like caffeine can help offset the effects upon arrival.
Adjust to it
When you arrive in a new time zone, it’s best to adjust to the local time. Try to wake up in the morning, get a lot of sunlight and go to bed at nighttime. Try to eat meals at normal local mealtimes to encourage the body to adjust to the new time. Short naps can help re-vitalize the body without preventing full sleep at night.
Schedule around it
Timing of international flights can also greatly affect jet lag effects. For example, I like how one of Cathay Pacific’s LAX-HKG flights leaves LAX at midnight and arrives at 5:45 a.m., two calendar days later. This allows me to board the flight, have dinner, go to sleep and then when I wake up, I am arriving in Hong Kong at 6 a.m. in the morning and my body can easily adjust.
More from this contributor:
My Top 5 Essential Travel Gadgets
Three Cool 2014 Music Cruises – Florida Georgia Line, Mad Decent Boat Party, Kiss Kruise
My Visit to the Hagia Sophia Museum in Istanbul