The phenomenon of jet lag is difficult to understand before you sit like a clubbed seal and sleep with your nose in the pancake on the other side of the globe. Physiologically, jet lag is a shift in your circadian rhythm. For every hour that the circadian rhythm is disturbed, it is said that one has acquired a degree of jet lag.
Can you avoid jet lag? The biggest difference you can experience in circadian rhythm is 12 hours, so 12 degrees. Depending on whether you fly east or west, the body will be ahead or behind in time. If you fly to the USA, for example, you will land on the other side of the Atlantic at almost the same time you took off from Sweden. Your day is getting longer – you have to stay awake more hours before evening comes. Depending on who you are and whether you are a morning or evening person, some people find it easier to fly east and others find it easier to fly west.
Before we had children, we had no problem flying either east or west. We reversed the clock already the night before we left by packing half the night and then sleeping through the flight. With children, jet lag has suddenly become a phenomenon for us too. You can't sleep when you want and your baby doesn't sleep when he should. Therefore, do not plan any major miracles immediately after you land on the other side of the globe. We made the mistake of planning to drive right after landing in Vancouver, which resulted in an extremely tired, slurring map reader in the back seat that was more of a bummer than a help. Nowadays, we take a night in the nearest hotel and sleep out – for the safety of the whole family.
Tip 1: Turn the clock a little in advance
For example, if you are going to fly to the United States, make sure to stay up an hour or so longer in the evenings on the days before departure, so the time difference will not be so great. If you are going to Asia, go to bed a little earlier in the evening. A 6 hour time difference is usually not a major problem if you prepare a little.
Tip 2: Eat food on the plane and sleep the rest of the trip
On flights, two meals are usually served - one when you board and one before you arrive. Eat food, drink in moderation with alcohol and plenty of water and then go to sleep. It may be tempting to watch movies and play games the entire trip, but you'll regret it when you arrive. And even if it feels strange to be served breakfast when your body tells you it's evening - eat! You don't get fitter by not getting any energy.
Tip 3: Change the clock immediately when you step on the plane.
Try to sleep on the plane when it is night at the destination and be awake when it is day at the destination. With the help of headphones/earplugs and an eye mask, it is possible to sleep at any time.
Tip 4: Most important tip: Harden up when you arrive!
Is it 15pm in the afternoon at the destination and your body says 23pm – DO NOT go to bed! Don't sleep midday either. Pin out, eat meals at the times that apply in the country for breakfast, lunch and dinner and then go to bed no earlier than 21pm. Then set the alarm every morning for a reasonable time and try to stay in bed until it rings - don't lie and pull away! In a few days you will no longer feel jet lag in your legs. We usually manage to be back to zero mode with a day off before work/school - this applies to all time zones we've been in - even when we've been to Hawaii or Australia.
What's your best tip for avoiding jet lag?
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Travel blogger, gastronaut, photographer and family adventurer with over 55 countries in his luggage. Eva loves trips that include beautiful nature, hiking boots and well-cooked food. On the travel blog Rucksack she takes you to all corners of the world with the help of her inspiring pictures and texts.