While you can never completely dodge the beast that is jet lag, there are a number of tactics to ease the pain. Veronica Stivala offers her timely advice
I have been jet lagged twice in my life. Once as child and the other time a few weeks ago.
Both were in summer and both came after trips to the US.
One occasion saw me swimming in my parents’ pool with my family in the early hours of the morning.
The other saw me drinking single malt whisky on the balcony, also in the early hours of the morning.
I will leave you to decide which event tallies to which age.
Jet lag is a funny thing and despite my best attempts to not let the condition unduly run on, I could not avoid finding myself wide-eyed past 3am.
The way it goes is that you take as many number of days to come back to normal, as the number of hours’ time difference. So in my case it was six hours.
And sure enough, come day six, I was almost back to normal.
I say ‘almost’ because in my zealous attempt to fit back into European time, I would force myself to wake up and get out of bed by 8am and avoid any daytime naps.
This still left me up with the bats so I was effectively functioning on very few hours’ sleep during this time and then needed to make up for lost sleep at a later date.
Also, the symptoms of jet lag are not simply being awake or feeling tired at the wrong time.
They also include extreme fatigue, indigestion and bowel problems, loss of appetite, memory and concentration issues or a general feeling of being unwell.
While my symptoms were not strong, and never debilitating, I did to some degree suffer from all of the above.
What is curious about jet lag is that it is worse travelling east than it is west.
So on the plus side, when travelling west for your holiday, as I did heading over the Atlantic Ocean to the US, you should find yourself adapting rather easily and quite quickly.
The body is naturally programmed to do a number of things during the day, such as eating and sleeping.
When we travel long distances at high speed, these circadian rhythms – the internal body clock – get thrown out of sync, leaving our bodies feeling very confused.
The reason why we find it more difficult to re-adjust when travelling east is because we find ourselves trying to sleep when our bodies are actually waking up, and then are propelled out of sleep during what feels like the middle of the night.
So when I travelled to the US, it was easy to adjust because my body just felt like I had had an extra-long day.
While avoiding jet lag entirely is difficult, there is some advice on managing it.
What is curious about jet lag is the fact that sufferers feel worse travelling east than west
We’ll start with some pre-flying tips. It seems those worst affected are those who follow rigid regimes, so if you always have breakfast at 7am, lunch at 1pm and sleep at 10pm, you’re going to find things rough.
Being flexible about such daily routines will give you an advantage. The same goes for not being too strict with sleeping patterns.
If you can, alter these a bit before you go.
Also, don’t travel tired. Making yourself tired to be able to sleep on the plane is not a good idea. If you can, plan your flights to arrive during the day so ‘all’ you will need to do is stay up just a bit longer.
While a nine-or-so-hour flight is no one’s idea of fun, popping sleeping pills or drowning yourself in Bloody Marys are bad ideas.
Sleeping pills leave you feeling drowsy, while alcohol dehydrates you, and this is far worse when you are flying.
In fact, if you are due to arrive at night, avoid drinking caffeine – be it in the form of tea, coffee of energy drinks.
While you don’t want them to keep you up, these drinks also dehydrate you.
Instead, its important to drink lots of water.
Move around and do exercises regularly while on the aeroplane as this helps circulation.
When you arrive, do your best to adjust to the new time zone, such as eating your meals at the time when you would normally have them.
Daylight is also supposed to make you feel better, so try to get as much of this as you can. Melatonin is a hormone that plays a key role in our body rhythm.
After the sun sets, the eyes perceive darkness and signal to the brain to produce melatonin, and vice versa when the sun rises.
Some people advise wearing sunglasses inside for these reasons. Continue to ensure you get some exercise and allow yourself to make up for lost sleep, be it in the form of an extra-long night’s sleep or a short nap during the day.
While being jet lagged really is an uncomfortable feeling, the body is incredible at adjusting, so just bear it (and drink whisky) until it goes away.