By Lisa Ross
Seasoned travelers are veterans of it. New travelers can be victims to it. It’s jet lag - the disruption of sleep patterns due to time changes. There are ways to combat it, and ways to make yourself more comfortable during its effects. You may suffer during seasonal time changes like daylight savings time, which is just one hour’s difference. Long distance travel is even more difficult. Air travel can have you losing or gaining half a day, and having to roll with the punches.
Lack of sleep and inability to fall asleep are both annoyances. The resulting fatigue and irritation cause wasted time and energy, when you could be busy exploring your new location. When your natural circadian rhythm is at odds with the time zone and you’re having difficulty falling asleep/ staying awake, you are having jet lag. Here are some ways to prevent it.
Avoid caffeine and alcohol: Both of them worsen jet lag. Even the small amount of caffeine in chocolate (sorry, folks!) can be a stimulant, causing you to have a hard time falling asleep. Basically, try to avoid large amounts of anything before you want to fall asleep: don’t exercise, eat a large meal, or pick up a book you can’t put down. These things are common sense; however, you may forget them. You might arrive at your destination very hungry and chow down when you get there, or you may end up getting lost and having to walk to your lodging. Plan ahead so you will be ready to go to sleep when it’s time.
Adjust to the time change before your flight: It’s a good idea to prepare yourself by resting and switching to your destination’s current time before you leave. Adjust to the new time in the comfort of your own home, before flying. This also requires planning, but it’s doable.
Rest on the plane: Sleep while you’re flying. Depending on your arrival time and future “bedtime,” this may take the form of eight hours of sleep or several smaller naps. Smaller naps will keep you rested without throwing off your circadian rhythm. Compare flight schedules before you purchase your flight, so you can pick the one you think will help you best adjust to the time change. Bring earplugs and a sleep mask. Sleeping on a plane is iffy - sometimes the conditions are good, and sometimes they’re not. Hopefully on international flights, people realize that everyone is in it together and they want to arrive well-rested. A flight full of people quietly reading and watching movies is ideal. You can’t count on it, though, which is why you rest at home before you travel.
Power through: Once you’re at your destination and it’s daytime there, try to stay awake until it’s time to go to bed again. Take a walk and get your legs moving to help stay awake. It’s a good time to center yourself and take a look around. You’re there and you travelled a long way, why not make the most of it? With GPS, or a trustworthy concierge, you can find out where to walk. Maybe you can find a park to sit and people-watch. Perhaps you’re close to something interesting that you can go see on foot, fitting it into your schedule during this bit of borrowed time. Circulation socks will help keep your legs from getting swollen and worn out during long walks. Avoid carbohydrate-heavy meals that would cause sleepiness.
Leg comfort and safety: It can be difficult to sleep on a long flight, due to a variety of things. Plane seats aren’t the most comfortable spots for dozing off. Plus, doctors recommend you get up every few hours to walk around. This keeps the circulation in your legs going, and it’s a way to prevent blood clots in the legs. If you’re at risk for deep vein thrombosis, this is especially important to do. Another way to make sure your circulation is healthy is to wear compression socks. They’re also referred to as flight socks, for their ability to keep blood moving during periods where you’re stuck in one position for several hours. They’re knee high socks that apply pressure to the legs in varying amounts. The most pressure is at the ankles - this is to stop blood from pooling there. The socks apply the least amount of pressure at the top. This is a specific design that keeps your legs healthy on long flights. In addition to preventing blood clots, they keep legs comfortable and help stop swelling.
Once upon a time, these socks weren’t much to look at, but now they’re just like any other sock - available in every color, some with fun prints. Healthy doesn’t have to be homely. Travel is fun and lively, and we have the socks to wear for it. Naturally, there are socks in more neutral colors, as well. It’s all about choice!
With updated designs, our socks look less pharmaceutical and more fashionable. It’s best to dress for practicality and safety; you’ll be glad you did.
Ask your friends: If you know someone who’s travelled where you’re going, ask them how they adjusted to the time change. Since jet lag can cause changes in your usual hunger patterns, it’s good to know what to eat and where. Know what to stay away from, too. If you can avoid any unpleasant surprises involving food or beverages, you should.
Daylight is your friend: Use it to stay awake during the day. Avoid using electronics at night; they’ll keep you awake. Use daytime to run around and do what you came to do - explore! Staying busy will help keep you awake. Use it as a helpful tool. Fresh air, sunshine, and new things will activate your mind and help you acclimate.
Jet lag is something you can plan on dealing with, and then plan around. Schedule in advance when you need to sleep at home and on the plane to get the most out of your time. Try to time it so you get enough rest, and get the most out of your trip.