Why do we get jet lag?
Jet lag is a fairly common problem caused by flying long distance across several time zones. It can affect anyone, although the elderly are more likely to experience it than younger people. Symptoms can include disturbed sleep patterns, tiredness and lack of energy.
What is jet lag?
The world is divided into 24 time zones based on the Greenwich Meridian, an imaginary line circling the Earth north to south and passing through the Royal Observatory at Greenwich in London. Clocks add an hour or decrease by an hour for every 15 degrees of longitude travelled, either east or west of the Greenwich Meridian, which is 0 degrees.
Jet lag occurs in long-haul flights because the aircraft will likely cross many time zones before landing. This has the potential to disrupt the natural ‘body clock’ of any would-be traveller. The body clock, sometimes known as the ‘biological clock’, follows a 24-hour cycle called the ‘circadian rhythm’. This rhythm is based around changes in daylight and darkness.
The body clock, normally synchronised to local time, tells you when to sleep as well as waken up. But it also affects hunger, digestion, body temperature, blood pressure and other bodily functions. However, whilst jet lag cannot be prevented, there’s a lot that can be done to reduce its effects.
How to avoid jet lag?
A few days before any long-haul flight, change your sleep routine. Go to bed earlier if you intend to travel east, or later if you’re flying west. Get adequate sleep. The more tired you are the more likely you are to suffer jet lag.
Stay as calm and relaxed as you can at all times. Stress can make jet lag worse.
Drink plenty of fluids during the flight itself and take plenty of catnaps. Eat only light meals and avoid alcohol, coffee and tea.
Exercise regularly. Get up from your seat and walk up and down the aircraft. Stretch arms, legs and ankles while sitting down. This will also help to reduce the risk of developing deep vein thrombosis, a potentially serious condition.
Change the time on your watch to that of your destination when you board the plane. That way you’ll more quickly adjust to the new time zone.
A final point worth considering. If your trip is a short one, perhaps it’s a business trip of only a day or two, for example, you might get away with staying on home time. Arrange any sleep, meetings or activities to coincide with the time you would normally do all these at home.