If you fly long haul regularly, or even on an occasional basis, you’re bound to have been steamrolled at some time or another by jet lag. For those whose business may sometimes require them to fly a long distance for a single meeting, the debilitating effects of jet lag can have serious consequences (no-one likes to nod off in front of a potential client!). For expat families travelling during holidays, precious vacation time can be lost if jet lag means that it takes you several days to regain your equilibrium at either end.
However, there are things you can do before, during and after a long haul flight to lessen the effects of jet lag.
What is Jet Lag?
Moving quickly across time zones is ultimately what causes jet lag, although it can also be exacerbated by the pressurised cabins on airplanes and the lack of space to move around. This is partly because for many of us sleeping on a plane is next to impossible, regardless of which class of seat we’re sitting in. But even if we do manage to catch some shut-eye, our circadian rhythms get thrown off when we’re in the artificial environment of a plane for too long. The regular rhythm of life is disrupted in the air and so it follows that our sleep rhythm is thrown off too. Our internal clocks are all over the place and so it’s almost as if the body doesn’t know when it is supposed to sleep.
Research has also found that, generally speaking, jet lag is worse when travelling from west to east, although it does hit people going both ways. And, unfortunately, the older you are the longer it tends to take to get over jet lag as well.
Preparing to combat jet lag
It can be a good idea to prepare for a long flight by having a spa massage that is designed with the specific aim of loosening your joints so that you are as relaxed and supple as possible before boarding the plane. This will help you to relax and increase the possibility of getting some decent rest during the flight.
When you’re on the plane and you want to sleep, try to minimise the interruptions as much as possible by wearing a sleep mask and ear plugs – interrupted sleep is worse than no sleep at all when it comes to combatting jet lag.
When you arrive at your destination, try to do this as well by making the room as dark as possible, for instance, and resisting the temptation to have your devices by your bed! It’s also a good idea to adjust your watch to the time zone of your destination as soon as you board your flight, giving yourself longer to adjust to it mentally.
Moving around in the cabin as much as possible and staying hydrated on the flight are also strategies that can help to lessen the impact of jet lag.
It’s also a good idea, when you arrive at your destination, to avoid a heavy meal. For instance, if you get in during the day and need to remain alert, not eating a big meal will help you to do this. Alternatively, if you get in at night and want to get some sleep, this could prove difficult on a full stomach and so avoid eating a large amount then. You’ll have plenty of time to settle in to more regular eating patterns later.
How to deal with jet lag
When you’ve travelled a long distance or for a significant period of time, the body can become stiff or even swollen as a result of sitting still for hours on end. One of the best remedies is natural – a spa massage might be just be just what your body is craving. This is a better choice as a way to adapt to your new time zone and recover your equilibrium than artificial stimulants like coffee, or sedatives such as sleeping pills.
This is because massage is a way of promoting and enhancing blood circulation and subsequently reducing fatigue, especially if essential oils are used. Your body has a better opportunity to find its natural balance again which in turn will make it easier for you to adapt to the new time zone and resume a regular sleeping pattern as quickly as possible.
We would always recommend a reflexology massage as the best way to realign your nervous system, or a Swedish massage with essential oils to soothe aching and contorted muscles. It’s also good for your digestion and blood pressure, both of which can also determine how severely you are impacted by jet lag.
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