More than 90% of travellers suffer from the effects of jet lag after moving to a different time zone. But how do fatigue, exhaustion and sleep disturbances arise from the time difference? Find out here what simple tips you can use to prevent jet lag, reduce the negative effects at your destination and quickly overcome your jet lag.
Table of contents
- Travelling through time
- How does jet lag occur?
- Consequences of jet lag
- The best tips against jet lag
- Further support
Travelling through time
Travelling is slowly becoming safer again and, especially in the summertime, many people set off by plane for far-flung holiday destinations. However, the fact that long-distance flights take us across different time zones and we have to get used to a new day-night rhythm at our destination can put quite a strain on our bodies. More than 90% of long-haul travellers suffer from tiredness, exhaustion or digestive problems during the first few days or even weeks at their destination. But where does the so-called jet lag come from?
How does jet lag occur?
Jet lag occurs when we travel through different time zones within a few hours and find ourselves in a completely different time of day when we arrive at our destination. Due to the time difference, the body's circadian rhythm ("the inner clock") gets out of sync and our sleep-wake rhythm no longer corresponds to the natural course of the day in our new environment. After the quick trip to another time zone, our body then initially still follows its usual rhythm and needs some time to adjust to the new circumstances. This has a particularly strong impact on our sleep patterns and upsets numerous other bodily functions such as hormone production or the regulation of important metabolic processes, body temperature and blood pressure. And this despite the fact that regeneration during sleep is enormously important for us, especially after the stress and strain of a long journey.
The consequences of jet lag
Our sleep suffers particularly from the sudden change of time zones, for example because the body produces sleep hormones even though it is now the middle of the day. You can find out how the hormone melatonin regulates sleep here. As a result of jet lag, we usually find it difficult to fall asleep in the evening or wake up particularly early in the morning and in turn suffer from pronounced tiredness, exhaustion or mood swings during the day. But headaches, dizziness or indigestion can also occur after arriving in a new time zone. How long the complaints last varies from person to person and also depends on the number of time zones crossed. The greater the time shift at the holiday destination, the longer the body needs to adjust.
Rule of thumb: For every hour of time difference, you need about one day to adjust.
The direction of the flight is also important. Travelling west will lengthen the day, which is usually more bearable and easier for the body to cope with than travelling east, where your internal clock has to adjust to a "shorter" daily rhythm.
The best tips against jet lag
Don't worry! With a few tips you can prepare yourself optimally for your upcoming trip and support your body at the holiday destination in quickly adapting to the new time.
#1 Before you travel
Adjust your sleep-wake rhythm early on
In order to reduce the time difference and to make the change easier for your body, you can already start to gradually adjust your daily and sleeping rhythm to the new time zone a few days before your trip. For flights to the east, it's a good idea to go to bed a little earlier and get up earlier, whereas you can stay awake a little longer before a trip to the west.
Pay attention to length of stay
For short stays in a different time zone, it's best not to let your body get used to the new time at all, to avoid double jetlag. So maintain your normal daily rhythm if you're only spending a few days at the destination with a time difference, so your body doesn't have to adjust again when you return.
#2 While travelling / on the road
Avoid sleep breaks & naps
Despite boredom and tiredness on the plane, it's better to stay awake! If you take too many sleep breaks, you may reduce your need for sleep and reduce the natural tiredness that would help your body adjust to an earlier or even later sleep time at your destination.
Observe healthy & light nutrition
Easily digestible, protein-rich meals can be easily processed on the road and also at the destination at rather unusual "mealtimes" and also provide the body with important nutrients and energy without putting additional strain on it. Also make sure you drink enough fluids and avoid stimulants such as alcohol, caffeine and nicotine immediately before, during and after your flight.
#3 After the trip / At the destination
Adapt quickly to the new time
Even if it is difficult, you should at least completely adjust to the new time immediately after arriving at your destination during longer stays and specifically support your body in developing a new daily and sleep routine. Therefore, try to hold out until the evening despite tiredness or go to bed earlier than usual according to the time difference.
Stay active and on the move
Exercise in daylight and fresh air gets the circulation going and not only helps against acute tiredness, but also has a positive effect on falling asleep in the evening. Daylight has a positive effect on hormone production and supports your body in the natural regulation of your sleep-wake rhythm. You can find out more about this in this article.
Further support against jetlag
Melatonin - secret weapon against jet lag sensations
As you probably already know, the sleep hormone melatonin is an important regulator of our sleep-wake cycle and is already known as an effective means of supporting the process of falling asleep. Scientific research also shows that our "internal clock" can adjust more quickly to a new time zone when we take additional melatonin. A supplement with melatonin can therefore reduce the effects of jet lag when travelling through different time zones and help your body to adapt quickly to the new time. We've summarized how melatonin can be used as a dietary supplement for you here.
Attention! While melatonin has a natural effect as a hormone produced naturally in the body, you should especially avoid chemical sleep aids on long journeys, as they influence sleep in an unnatural way and throw the natural sleep rhythm off track.
Jet lag occurs when we travel through different time zones and our inner clock gets out of balance.
The consequences of jet lag range from fatigue, exhaustion and mood swings to headaches, dizziness or indigestion.
Before the trip: Gradually adjust your daily rhythm to the time of your destination even before you start your trip.
On the road: Avoid frequent sleep breaks and make sure you eat an easily digestible, healthy diet with sufficient fluid intake.
At time-shifting destinations: Follow the new time directly and spend plenty of time outdoors to support natural sleep.
With an additional intake of melatonin, the internal clock can adjust faster to a new time zone.
Best wishes and see you soon!