How to Leave Jet Lag at the Airport Gate
You are soooo ready for this holiday. You’ve planned it for months, gone without lattes for what seems like years to save up the money, dreamed of sunlit fantasies and moonlit desires. There are brochures and websites scattered all over the house.
And when the plane finally touches down in the destination of your dreams... it’s all you can do to stumble to your hotel room and fall into an exhausted sleep. When you wake up, it’s three in the morning and all the fun local activities are shut down. But now you can’t sleep, so you fire up the Keurig and watch TV programmes in a language you can’t understand until eight or nine. Ah, now the world around you is waking up! It’s time to go out and play! Except you’re suddenly completely knackered again, so it’s back to bed for you. And when you wake up, alas, the bars are just closing.
Aside from your maddeningly inappropriate sleeping schedule, you may also be suffering from irritability, mood swings and, to put it delicately, unexpected and unwelcome departures from your usual digestive routine.
You, my friend, have fallen victim to the dreaded Curse of the Jet Lag. How did this happen to you? How can you fix it?
What Causes Jet Lag?
Jet lag is caused by evil time demons who resent the invention of aeroplanes. Well, that’s one theory. Another, preferred by scientists, has to do with your body’s natural circadian rhythm. See, you tend to do certain things at particular times during the course of a 24-hour day – sleep, wake, eat, work, go to the pub, floss your teeth – and you mess with these routines at your peril.
When you travel across time zones, it gives the time demons the opportunity to exploit gaps in the space-time continuum... sorry! When you cross time zones, you – get this – experience “a lack of synchronization in the brain cells of two parts of the brain”. In other words, your body clock goes out of whack, and your brain can’t seem to do a damn thing about it. You might know where you are, but your brain doesn’t know when you are. And the more time zones you cross, the more confused it gets.
Travelling east is the worst thing you can do because that’s where most of the time demons live. Also, when you travel east you lose hours in your day, rather than gain them, which makes it harder for your body to adjust to the change. But travelling west probably won’t help either because at some point you’ll just have to travel east again, won’t you? Your best bet is to travel north or south, without crossing any time zones, but perhaps Antarctica isn’t where you wanted to go.
Incidentally, if it has occurred to you that crossing time zones is a form of time travelling, the consensus seems to be that it isn’t. But it’s still fun to think about.
How to Beat Jet Lag
Never, ever cross a time zone. Never, ever annoy a time demon. If you really must do so because your heart is set on long-haul holidays, here are some tips to help your body adjust and beat jet lag.
Before you leave
- Trick your body by fooling around with your schedule before you change time zones. The goal is not to actually become nocturnal, just to loosen up those strict circadian rhythms a bit, moving them a little closer to your destination’s time. Get in the mood by setting your clocks to the time zone you’re going to. This is more than just a psychological gimmick (like you’d fall for that anyway): if you edge your sleeping and eating habits towards the schedule of the locals in your destination’s time zone, you’ve got a head start on your body’s adjustment to the change.
- Sleep well, my darling. Getting a good night’s rest the night before your flight can help.
During the flight
- Don’t drink alcohol while travelling. This is a hard one, obviously, but be strong and be brave – soon you’ll be at your destination, where you can drink a toast to your triumph over the time demons and dance the night away.
- Don’t dance on the airplane. Doing so won’t affect your chances of getting jet lag, but it will seriously irritate the flight attendants.
- But do get some exercise if you can. Try to walk up and down the aisle every hour or so. Or do some in-seat exercises, unless this will lead to you accidentally hitting the person sitting next to you.
- Don’t drink caffeine. Another difficult instruction, but you’ll be glad you heeded it.
- Do drink water. Hydrate, hydrate, hydrate!
- With the help of the data you’ve collected of the time your flight arrives in your target time zone, a sharpened pencil and a maths tutor, work out whether it’s best to sleep on the plane or stay awake. Your goal here is to whip your circadian rhythm into line. If you should stay awake, arrange to sit in front of that four-year-old who just will not stop kicking the back of your seat no matter how many times you ask him not to or how many dirty looks you give his parents.
- If it’s daytime, try not to go to sleep until a somewhat reasonable bedtime. Stay awake! Take a cold shower! Pretend there are zombies everywhere and you need to keep yourself at maximum alertness level! If it’s nighttime, try to sleep. Pretend there are vampires everywhere and it isn’t safe to go out.
- Get up early in the morning, local time. Sunlight helps bamboozle your body and mind into thinking it really is morning. Which in fact it is, where you are now.
You: 1; Time Demons: 0
There is no sure-fire cure for jet lag. Well, except staying put in your own time zone but that’s no fun. There’s a world out there, and it needs you to be awake to enjoy it. Teletext Holidays can’t actually protect you from the time demons, but we can help with your next long-haul holiday, leaving you free to concentrate on living the dream while you’re actually awake.