Ask any regular long-haul flyer about their experience of flying and you will soon discover that everyone has a different “magic" formula for overcoming or avoiding jet lag.
In reality of course no magic formula exists – and there is certainly no magic pill or tablet. There is, however, a great deal that you can do in preparation for your departure to help you overcome or eliminate jet lag and here are just a few tips:
1. Maintain a consistent sleep pattern.
If you are not following a consistent routine in the days and weeks before your journey (going to bed and getting up at the same time each day) your body's internal clock will be disrupted even before you start your journey and your flight will simply magnify the effects of insomnia induced by jet lag.
2. Ensure you are getting a balanced and healthy diet.
Diet plays an important role in ensuring that you get a good night's sleep and an appropriate balance of whole grains, proteins, fruits and vegetables in your diet is essential.
Alcohol and caffeine are two elements of your diet that are particularly important in relation to jet lag and these should be reduced, or eliminated, in the run-up to your journey if at all possible. If, however, asking you to give up your twelve cups of coffee each day is rather like asking you to cut off your right hand, then try to limit your intake to the afternoon between about 3 pm and 5 pm.
Caffeine when taken late in the day tends to speed up your body clock, while taking it in the morning has the opposite effect. Taken during the middle of the day, caffeine has little or no effect on your body's circadian rhythms.
3. Take regular exercise.
Regular exercise can significantly improve the consistency, quality and duration of your normal sleep cycle. Some form of daily aerobic exercise, lasting at least twenty minutes, will go a long way to preparing your body for your forthcoming journey.
4. Start to slowly adjust your bedtime.
You should begin to “manage" your body clock by gradually and slowly adjusting your bedtime and wake up time in the days before your journey, to bring these into line with the local time at your destination.
If, for example, you normally go to bed at 10 pm and you are flying to a country that is four hours ahead, at your normal bedtime the time at your destination will be 2 am. So, in this case, you need to slowly bring your bedtime forward a little bit (say fifteen minutes) each night for a week or ten days before your departure. This might mean that immediately prior to leaving you are going to bed at say 7.30 pm. However, when you arrive at your destination this will mean that you are now going to bed at 11.30 pm and that you have narrowed the four hour time difference to just one and a half hours.
5. Reduce stress in the days before traveling.
One often overlooked factor in the jet lag equation is that of stress and much of this stress is a direct result of the journey itself. How many times have you found yourself running around at the last minute trying to do 1001 things at once?
Plan ahead and make sure that, as far as is possible, everything that you need to do both at home and at works is completed well in advance of your journey. In planning for your journey, clear as much as you can as early as you can and make specific time available in your pre-journey planning for plenty of relaxation in the days immediately prior to your departure.
These are just a few examples of things that you should pay attention to when planning any long-haul trip and, together with other specific measures taken both during your flight and following your arrival, will considerably reduce the effects of jet lag, or even lead to no jet lag at all!
Copyright 2005 Donald Saunders - http://help-me-to-sleep.com
Donald Saunders is the author of a number of health-related publications looking in detail at curing insomnia and managing other common sleep disorders. Drop by for more information on jet lag and to pick up your free copy of “How To Get A Good Night's Sleep".