flight planning: coping with jet lag
Advices on coping with jet lag, long haul flight fatigue
About jet lag...
Jet lag, often miss-spelled, "jetlag" is caused by a disruption of one's "inner clock" - the "clock" of the body, which controls the timing of biological functions.
The "body clock" controls functions, like when you have to eat and sleep. By traveling fast to long distance, other time zones, like we do with airplanes, the inner equilibrium is perturbated. For example, when flying from Tokyo to Los Angeles, the traveler will be strongly influenced by the time zone shifting. Will feel disoriented, tired during daytime, wake during night time, dizzy, possibly nauseous, will wake up in the middle of the night and go to the kitchen to have lunch. All these happen because our body clock cannot find its way around: what happens inside of our body is not correlated with what happens inside.
Slowly, the body adjusts itself to the new time zone. This can take up to 2 weeks. Depending on the activity of the respective person in this period and his/her biological characteristics (capability to cope with stress, age, born characteristics, blood flow, etc).
Coping with jet lag is possible, however, most travelers don't even know it is possible.
Coping with jet lag
Jet lag can be reduced, but not completely eliminated.
Before all, you need to prepare for your long distance flight.
For adequate preparation, you have to take care of what you are doing and how you treat your body and during the 10 days before the trip.
Use the 10 days to prepare for jet lag:
Avoid strong stress, over exhaustion
(don't overwork yourself, avoid strong stress, take a small vacation, if possible)
Exercise on a regular basis
(if you are not used to this, don't over work your body, it can exhaust you and contribute negatively to your preparation, but if you are a sporty person, this will help you adapt better to jet lag)
(take care of yourself, so that you won't get cold or won't)
Minimize exposure to strong light
(don't watch PC monitors for long time, don't get exposed to strong light, such as neon light, if possible, avoid them)
(this part of your preparation must be in accordance with your age - anyway, all categories of travelers must get a substantial amount of vitamins, minerals, therefore eating fruits, drinking natural juices and avoiding alcohol is essential)
Avoid the use of drugs or similar products
(cigarettes have horrible effects, which everyone knows, but if you are an addict, this will be hard to avoid, but for those of you who drink coffee, alcohol periodically we advise a complete elimination of these drinks, as they exhaust the nervous system, minimizing the capability to cope with jet lag)
Sleep enough, but not too much
(some travelers overlook this fact, it is highly important, in some cases additional rest can help - but too much sleep can cause long term fatigue, slows blood circulation and reduces concentration)
Drink natural fluids
(before flight, during and after, drink as much as your body requires, perhaps a little more - this contributes to creating adequate blood flux in veins and reduces DVT - deep vein thrombosis, a common illness caused by immobilization on long haul flights)
Of course, not all of us have 10 days at our disposal to relax and exercise.
7 days could be enough, in the worst case, even 5.
If you have 3 or less days at your disposal, before flight, then concentrate on getting a good night sleep, each day before flight, avoid exhaustion and stress, eat healthy, exercise.
On your flight, take care of the following:
(cabin noise can be disturbing, but you have to rest, even if you cannot sleep, therefore do not use headphones too much, don't watch too much tv on flights, rest as much as you can; ear plugs can help you cope with the cabin noise during flight)
Drink natural fluids
(like explained higher on this page, this contributes to good blood flow, reduces dehydration)
Move as much as possible
(don't wear tight clothing, belts, hard inflexible shoes, etc. that can negatively affect blood flow in your organism; while on long haul flights, take periodic walks to the toilet and back, you will not be allowed to do more, and, while in your seat, take your shoes off and mover your feet)
After your flight, take care of your body by resting, exercise little, if possible, but there won't be a major problem if you don't.
There are several other things that can help you cope with jet lag, after the flight:
Spa treatment (especially massage), showers - but with precautions!
(never take hot showers, nor cold ones! they act as shock to your body and will only cause harm; but, a good massage, a light shower can help a lot in blood circulation, reducing fatigue)
Avoid strong light
(for 2-3 days, it will be best for you if you avoid computer screens, tvs)
(it is best for you if, in the first 2-3 days, you don't walk too much in areas with thousands of possuting cars, such as main streets; it would be a good idea if you a took a walk in a park, also for the oxigen and the positive psychic effect of the green colour)
The best way to cope with jet lag
Avoid pills, medication, alcohol, coffee, anything that manipulates your organism, give more energy to your body by eating healthy, taking enough (but not too much) sleep before flight and exercising regularly.
The best way is to make your body strong enough to get adapted in just 1-2 days after arrival, not 2 weeks, as it happens usually.
After arriving, adapt to the new time zone as quick as possible: sleep during the night time, even if you are not tired, this way your body will re-learn when to sleep, when to be awake.
During daytime, eat when you would normally do so. If, back home, let's say, you normally take lunch at 15:00, then, do the same at your destination, at local time. Your body will then learn not to make you go to the kitchen for a "night-lunch".
Reducing jet lag is possible. Eliminating it is impossible.
Keep in mind that you can get adapted in 1-2 days, instead of 1-2 weeks, like it would normally happen, if you don't get prepared.
Important issues on jet lag
Is jet lag different when flying eastwards or westwards?
Many people believe that flying eastwards (like flying from Budapest to Bangkok) is worse, while flying westwards (like from Bombay to London) creates less jet lag or none at all. All these are false beliefs. Direction is not important, jet lag happens whenever you travel to long distances, as the body cannot adapt to the time zone changes.
Is there a difference between night flights and daytime flights?
Yes, there is. But this is mostly linked to the type of person you are and which type of flight you prefer.
There are more daytime and less night time flights. Most travelers prefer daytime flights. But the time zone difference will be noticed by your body anyway.
At night, your body is more predisposed for resting. Therefore, it is highly recommended for you to sleep on your flight. But, due to cabin noise, the quality of sleep will be worse than normally, so you will be tired when you arrive.
During daytime, you are wake, resting on the flight, even sleeping is recommended, but if you don't do it, the effects will not be as bad is if you were not sleeping on a night flight.
In conclusion: night flights are "sleep flights", because your body remembers that it's time for you to sleep, as opposed to daytime flights, when you don't get as strongly affected if you just rest.
How about the use of sleeping pills?
Never use anything that manipulates your normal body functions.
Here's a simple reason why: your body is trying to adapt to time zone changes, by adding another element to this only increases the stress and will make you even more disoriented. Sleeping pills or other products that favorize sleep only add to the problem, contribute to it negatively, as a third effect (one is jet lag/time zone shifting, the other is your body's inner clock and the third would be the sleeping pills).
There are pills said to eliminate jet lag, how about them?
Many companies sell jet lag pills, few of them work actually. Remember: the only thing a pill can do is to manipulate your body, make you feel like you're fine. Jet lag is a phenomenon that happens whenever you travel to long distances, because your body cannot adjust to the new time zone.
Jet lag pills either keep you awake or help you fall asleep, others are created to influence your body in such a way that it produces more energy, so that you can cope with the stress better. No pills can help you cope with jet lag.
Some people take major risks when trying the Melatonin treatment (a controversial treatment, popular mostly in the US), it is based on hormonal manipulation, therefore it's strongly criticized and is known to have severe, sometimes permanent side effects.
The best way to cope with jet lag is to get prepared for the flight. Not just 1 day, but at least 1 week before.