Scientific Secrets for Avoiding Jet Lag

Beating jet lag

Jet lag is no joke, as those who spend a great deal of time travelling abroad will know. Sitting with your eyes wide open and body flushed with energy at 2am is nothing short of a nightmare, and can quickly ruin your entire day. Or, in worst-case scenarios, it can even ruin entire holidays, making the whole effort nothing but a waste of time.

For starters, don’t feel bleak. Jet lag is a major problem for everyone, with some touring celebrities citing it as one of the biggest, most unacknowledged problems they face. Imagine spending most of your life on tour jetting across multiple time zones in a month, and still being expected to perform at your peak in every location? It’s nothing to be taken lightly, and many celebrities report having lost all concept of day and night, to such an extent that it leaves them feeling deeply disoriented.

But take heart, those who spend an above average amount of time travelling abroad, it turns out that there are scientific ways in which to combat jet lag, and implementing them is surprisingly simple.

Why Does Jet Lag Occur?

First, understanding why jet lag occurs is important. A professor at the Centre for Sleep Science in Stanford University, Jamie Zeitzer, explains that it’s more than simply being out of a recognised time zone.  The brain has a built in system that literally serves no other purpose than insuring our body follows set routines. So it’s not just a case of sleeping and eating when the time feels right, but your brain telling you that the time is right. These routines are regulated.

When you start asking your brain to eat and sleep at times that it recognises as wrong, very simply, it refuses, lest you land up out of whack with established reality.

The Key Is Light

But it turns out that the secret to overcoming jet lag, or even avoiding it entirely, is light. Sunlight, to be more specific. It turns out that those brain cells we were talking about operate based around the types of sunlight you are being exposed to, which makes a great deal of sense.

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Professor Zeitzer explains that the most important light to expose yourself to in order to help your body adjust accordingly depends on where you’re travelling. If going east then you want to expose yourself to as much morning light as possible, and avoid exposing yourself to evening light, upon landing at your destination. Naturally, the opposite is true of travelling west. This simple trick can be so effective that it is possible to avoid feeling any jet lag at all. It sounds like a bit of a pain, true, but is far better than the alternative.

Plan In Advance

Another very sneaky trick is to adjust your body prior to actually taking the trip. Again, it is a bit of a hassle, but can go a long way in helping you not land up with bags under eyes in an important business meeting. Naturally, this is only very useful for those who take extended trips to foreign destinations.

Zeitzer says that the trick is to adjust your sleep patterns by two hours a few days prior to taking the trip. This is simply a matter of going to bed earlier and waking up sooner, which translates into a big difference when shifting to a new time zone entirely.

Drink Water, Skip Booze

A last tip, and one that is more of a cherry on the cake than anything else, is to avoid getting dehydrated, as it can make jet lag considerably worse than it otherwise has to be. So to this end, drinking alcohol on the flight is a gigantic no-no. Yes, it probably seems like a good way to pass the time, but will go a long way to making your time adjustment much harder than it has to be.

Instead, stick to water, which will have the exact opposite effect. Combine it with the above tips, and you’ll find that jet lag is more manageable by large margin.