One significant drawback to international or long-distance travel is jet lag. In addition to making you feel miserable, it can affect your job performance and, if you are driving, might distract you from the road, potentially becoming a safety hazard. Fortunately, jet lag is understood by the medical community, and there are several things that you can do to lessen its symptoms.
What Is Jet Lag?
Jet lag is a condition caused by a disruption in your circadian rhythm when you travel across multiple time zones by plane. The quick transition between zones does not give your body a chance to adjust to the time difference between your destination and where you live. As a result, your sleep can be disrupted, causing a range of physical and mental symptoms.
It should be noted that not everybody suffers from jet lag, and symptoms can vary in type and intensity between individuals. In many cases, you will not thoroughly understand how your body responds to jet lag until you have actually taken a long-distance or international trip. Additionally, eastward voyages are more likely to result in severe symptoms because of the loss of time as one progresses in that direction. While it is possible to get jet lag from a Westward trip, the symptoms are usually not severe or long-lasting.
Symptoms of Jet Lag
Symptoms of jet lag include:
Drowsiness or exhaustion during the day
Body aches and general malaise
Difficulty falling asleep at night, no matter how tired you might be
While many of these symptoms are manageable, some can present problems while you are on a business trip. You may not be as mentally sharp as you need to be, which could affect your interactions with colleagues and clients. The consequences of jetlag become more serious when you are expected to drive or operate heavy machinery during your travels. If you fall into this category, it's essential to take steps to prevent and address jet lag.
How Long Does Jet Lag Last?
Jet lag symptoms vary in length depending on multiple factors, including individual response to circadian rhythm disruption, whether you have traveled eastward or westward, and the time difference between your starting time zone and that of your destination. In many cases, however, jet lag symptoms are at their worst during the first 24 to 48 hours and lessen over time. Still, some people experience symptoms for several days or even weeks after arrival.
Preventing Jet Lag
There are several options for preventing jet lag, some of which require planning:
If possible, try to arrive at your destination a day or so before you have to get to work. If you know that you suffer from severe jet lag symptoms, your employer may be willing to allow for an extra day in your travel schedule. Taking some time to acclimate yourself and rest can make a big difference in how you feel during the rest of your trip.
Try to adjust your sleep schedule before your flight. This may not work for everyone, but waking up or going to bed earlier for a week before your departure might help you adjust to your new schedule.
Natural and artificial light affects your circadian rhythm. If you arrive at your hotel at night, avoid television, your cell phone, and other screens. Instead, rest in a darkened room until you are ready to fall asleep.
If you arrive during daylight hours, resist the urge to crash once you get into your room. Instead, try to get some exercise, preferably outdoors. Take a walk and consider outdoor activities, such as dining outside, for the rest of the day. The more light you get, the easier your adjustment will be. If outdoor exercise is not possible, hit the hotel gym.
Alcohol affects sleep quality, so be careful while on the plane or once you've reached your destination.
Looking for more travel tips like these? Explore our blog for other ideas for staying safe, saving money, and getting the most out of your travels.