Tuesday, 26 November 2013

What is jet lag and how do you deal with it?

Picture Source: expatchild.com

Jet lag can make travelling exhausting; jet lag + children is a different kettle of fish. It can result in a viscous circle of hunger, tiredness, liveliness and sometimes actual physical pain- all at conflicting times of the day. It isn’t unusual to hear stories of families being tucked up at 9, to find that mum wakes up 3 hours later with energy she never realised she had. Then after tossing and turning for 2 hours she eventually dosses of, only to be woken by child A moments after. Child B then wakes up the following hour by which point it is light outside and everyone is hungry.

Picture Source: OCweekly

Jet lag is medically referred to as desynchronosis, and is caused by alterations to circadian rhythms. The symptoms of "jet lag" range from disorientation, insomnia, fatigue, nausea, irrational behaviour, mental confusion and headaches.  So, children or no children, jet lag is something that most expats will need to learn to cope with; here are some helpful tips which should make your transition from one country to another a little bit easier.   

Jet lag is worse when you move from west to east because the body finds it harder to adapt to a shorter day than a longer one. A few days before you travel, start getting up and going to bed earlier (if you're travelling east) or later (if you're travelling west).  If it's daylight at your destination, try to avoid sleeping on the plane and If it's night time at your destination, sleeping on the plane is a must! Once at your destination don’t be tempted to nap in the afternoon (if you must make sure it’s no longer than 30minutes)- this will only damage your sleeping pattern further.

Keep hydrated on the plane
Dehydration will only intensify the effects of jet lag, especially after sitting in a dry aeroplane cabin for hours. Best to avoid alcohol and caffeine as they are both diuretics. 

Say no to drugs
Frequent travellers and airline staff often take melatonin, a hormone formed by the body at night or in darkness, to try to fight jet lag. Sleeping medication is best avoided as it doesn't help your body to adjust naturally to your new sleeping pattern. Headaches and dizziness are also common side effects of Melatonin.

Eat 3 meals a day
... at the right time! It is important to sync your body clock as quickly as possible and eating at the right time is just as important as sleeping at the right time. It helps your body to synchronise.

Stay Outside!
The cycle of light and dark is one of the most important factors in setting the body’s internal clock. Exposure to daylight at the destination will usually help you adapt to the new time zone faster.

It is important to remember, you cannot eradicate jet lag. It is a natural reaction to a change in time zone and the above pointers just provide ways to help speed up this transition process.

Bon voyage!

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