Surviving jet lag: How to beat fatigue when travelling

Airplane window

Surviving jet lag is the holy grail to travel. To step of a flight in your new destination, fresh and ready to go explore would be amazing! I used to be good at this. But these days it’s getting harder for me. Over the summer, as we escaped the heat of Doha, my husband and I travelled to 4 different countries in 4 weeks. However, as we used London as our hub to connect to other locations that equated to 6 flights plus a 4hr train journey up to Scotland. What was I thinking?!

multiple flights

photo credit: N78506 LAX via photopin (license)

The tiredness of travelling hit us at different stages but for me, it was unexpected. We were flying back to Doha with a connection in Bahrain. When travelling with my DH, I usually don’t get the window seat. But on this leg of the trip I insisted on it. I was too tired to be sandwiched into the middle seat and I figured, ‘hey we’re in the Middle East now, women don’t sit next to men who aren’t their husbands’. So I got my window seat and I shut my eyes for a quick 40 winks before the flight took off. And then my husband was waking me up as we had landed in Doha. I looked out the window in disbelief. For those of you who have ever been to Bahrain or Doha, you’ll know the backdrops look very similar. Dusty with sand-coloured buildings. Even the flags are similar. I didn’t quite believe it but, sadly, I had missed it… The entire flight and show outside from the window seat. The curse of jet lag had finally caught up on me.

Calculating your jet lag

There is a bit of math that goes into calculating how long it will take you to get over jet lag. This depends on how many time zones you have crossed through. Generally speaking, our bodies adjust to a new time zone at at a rate of 1-2 time zones a day. So technically, even crossing to Europe with that 1hr time difference will take half a day to a day to adjust.

Not being a fan of math when planning trips other than to work out how much my trip will cost, I wasn’t aware of this formula for success. I went wrong with not allowing enough time in-between flights to adjust. The worst leg of our trip being travelling from Toronto, to London and then Doha in 4 days. Oops!

Photo credit: Tristan Colangelo

Photo credit: Tristan Colangelo

Side effects of jet lag

Believe it or not, there are side effects to jet lag. Most are similar to the side effects linked to  sleep deprivation (no surprises there!). On the list of side effects alongside the obvious- fatigue and insomina are:

  1. anxiety
  2. constipation and diarrhea
  3. headaches
  4. coordination problems
  5. difficulty concentrating and memory loss
  6. dizziness

How to survive jet lag

So here are some tips on how to survive jet lag. Some sound advice and some that require a little bit of planning.

  1. Prepare for jet lag by being well rested before a flight.
  2. Use your journey to optimise on nap times, sleeping at appropriate times as you cross time zones.
  3. Stay well hydrated and move around the cabin often when possible
  4. Avoid too much alcohol and caffeine which act as stimulants and depressants
  5. Once you’ve reached your destination try to sync to the time zone as quick as possible (eg: don’t take a 4 hr nap in the middle of the day, try and hold out for an early night)
  6. Take short naps if you need to rest (20mins- enough not to fall into a deep sleep)
  7. Use prescription supplements such as melatonin if need be (and with doctors directions)

One thing I’ve always sworn by is exposure to daylight to help regulate our circadian rhythms. I love sleeping with the curtains open so that I can wake up with natural light, naturally, rather than with a beeping alarm clock.

Fresh faced and ready to go

Finally, there is the issue of looking like crap when getting off an airplane. Especially a red-eye flight. I’ve read tips on how to stay hydrated, and although the obvious (drink more water) is good, it doesn’t always do the job. So I followed some of the advice on Conde Naste traveller to help remedy the mess I was coming off a plane!

Moisturising definitely did help on my most recent trip from Doha to Singapore. My next step is to try the Gatorade tip! Other great tips can also be found on SheKnows.

getting ready

photo credit: Preparation via photopin (license)

So there you have it. Some calculated tips on how to survive jet lag. I’m going to try to keep them in mind the next time I’m travelling.

How do you survive jetlag? Do you prefer the red eye flights?


photo credit for featured image Felix Meyer via photopin (license)

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