Jet lag occurs when our internal clock, which synchronizes our habits based on the day-night cycle, has trouble adjusting to hourly changes. It is commonly associated with long-distance air travel , and gives rise to feelings of intense fatigue. Jet lag is particularly severe for people who suffer from sleep disorders. Fortunately, although jet lag is common among travelers, there are plenty of solutions to prevent and treat it.
At Horus X we travel a lot and we have concocted a complete guide for you to anticipate and fight against jetlag.
In this article
- Intro: the importance of light
- Preliminary reminder
- The anti-jetlag toolbox
- Before the journey
- During the trip
- After the trip
Light: the key factor
This is THE most important factor! The light determines our rhythms of awakenings and it is therefore above that we must make a maximum of efforts to minimize the jetlag. Keep this in mind, you will see that almost all strategies revolve around this to be able to fight jet lag
If it is quite possible to organize yourself to prevent and minimize the effects of jet lag on your body, it is important above all to remember that the feeling of jet lag is different for each person.
Indeed, some people recover from jet lag within hours, while others experience lasting disturbances for several days. The strategies offered in this guide will work differently for everyone. It is absolutely essential that you experiment with these tips for yourself to find what works best for you.
Toolbox to fight jet lag
These tools are essential to counteract jet lag, they don't take up much space either.
- 🕶 Dark glasses (preferably anti blue light)
- Sleep mask
- 🎧 Earplugs and/or noise canceling headphones
- 💦 Water bottle to refill after security
- 💊 Melatonin (optional)
- 📲 An anti jetlag application (Time Shifter for example)
Preventing the risks of jet lag: the worst happens before the trip
Tip number 1: adjusted rest, the key to success before leaving
The first piece of advice we can give you is to adapt gradually to local time before leaving on your trip.
It's not the easiest, especially if you're going to the end of the world, but you can start to slowly change your biological clock anyway. By gradually modeling your sleep pattern on the place where you are going, your body will be a little less disturbed the first days of the trip.
Simple rules to follow:
- ⏰ Gradually bring your bedtimes forward or back depending on the destination time, a few days before your departure, so as not to rush your body too much.
- 🕶 Three hours before bedtime, put on your anti-blue light glasses to reduce ambient light to a minimum, which will gradually activate the secretion of melatonin essential to start a good night's sleep.
- ⚠️ Before flying away, try to have the healthiest pace of life possible. Substances like alcohol or caffeine (or worse, Red Bull) risk completely throwing your internal clock off course when you just need to impose a rhythm on it.
What to do during the trip to avoid jet lag on arrival?
When you're leaving for your destination, you still have plenty to do to reduce the impact of jet lag when you arrive: you can still limit damage by taking action to help your body avoid jet lag!
Tip number 2: during the flight, model your behavior according to the destination schedule
The secret is to follow your destination schedule almost perfectly: it's hard but extremely effective. If during the flight it is bedtime at your place of arrival, then do what is necessary to fall asleep* (or doze off). Conversely, if during the flight the schedule on site is in the afternoon, avoid sleeping as much as possible.
🌅 The phases of awakening
When you have to stay awake, try to do small physical exercises on the plane regularly, especially if the flight is very long. Get up every hour to walk around and stretch. And don't worry if 98% of the plane behaves like human rags, it's them who will hurt everywhere when they arrive, not you! You may feel like you're puppeting in the aisle, but when you see the difference you'll understand your sacrifice.
This allows both:
- maintain good blood circulation
- to have energy throughout the flight when you need to be awake
- to avoid pain and muscle rigidity which are very unpleasant
👉 The advice of the traveler Horusien : To make this easier, it is important to choose a place on the corridor side, to avoid disturbing your neighbors. Believe in my experience: there is nothing worse than being stuck between two passengers and constantly having to disturb them to go do your yoga!
💤 Stages of sleep
If, conversely, it's time to sleep in your destination, you'll have to try to take a nap:
- Avoid screens that emit blue light,
- Opt for sleep masks and earplugs (unless like me you have the impression of overheating your ears)
- Discover the power of relaxing music or guided meditation: it's my secret to isolating myself from the outside world and so that my brain can rest at its best.
- Try doing deep breathing exercises or stretching your legs if you have trouble falling asleep.
- Even if it's mealtime, try not to pay attention to it (I know, mealtime is often a good time to pass the time but if it's at the cost of disrupting your jet lag plan then it's no !!). If you absolutely want to eat, try to put on your blue light blocking glasses to keep the atmosphere as dim as possible during your meal.
* Tip : Don't force yourself to sleep. You will also see that it is often complicated to sleep on command. The most important thing here is to try to relax and reduce exposure to any light to let your brain and body know that it's time to get into a new rhythm. Even if you can't sleep, you will benefit from the benefits of a good meditation.
** In transit : when you have a stopover, it's even harder to stick to the arrival times. Blue light blocking glasses can be effective in blocking out as much light as possible if you are on a time slot where you are supposed to sleep (at your destination). They block the light from the airport and allow you to minimize the negative effect of light on your biological clock.
Tip number 3: avoid stimulating substances
When you fly, you have to be very careful with products that promote waking up or falling asleep, such as coffee, tea, alcohol or sleeping pills: it's difficult to dose, the effects are often more negative than positive.
In addition, the effects of these substances are increased tenfold during the flight because the oxygen differential tends to increase the power of these products on our brain.
While it's true that it's tempting to be tipsy on a plane, especially when you're stressed or to pass the time, it's really not very good for the body! And I assure you that on landing, the backlash is quite violent.
Tip number 4: drink plenty of water
In any case, drink plenty of water to stay hydrated: the dry air in the cockpit promotes fatigue and aggravates the symptoms of jet lag.
This is where your bottle comes in handy. Of course, you will have emptied it before going through security, but you can fill it up at the various drinking water fountains available at the airports.
If you run out of water, ask a hostess or steward to fill your bottle.
Tip number 5: take melatonin (optional)
A lesser-known trick is to take dietary supplements such as melatonin , a hormone normally naturally secreted by the body that helps control the circadian rhythm. Melatonin can help regulate sleep and help reduce symptoms related to jet lag.
Melatonin is the only time cue other than light that can shift the circadian clock and help you move to new time zones even faster, although its effects are generally weaker than those of light.
Taking melatonin has two effects:
- First , it helps alter the rhythm of the circadian clock to help you overcome jet lag more quickly.
- Second , it will help you sleep when you cross time zones by telling the brain to sleep at a different time than normal.
Remember that it is important to discuss with a health professional before taking any medication. If you don't want to take melatonin, there are alternatives .
Once there, are there other tricks to adapt more quickly?
Once you arrive at your destination, everything you have done beforehand, good or bad, will impact your body's reaction. But nothing is lost, there are solutions to limit breakage and to continue to reduce the feeling of jet lag.
Tip number 6: after a flight, make sure that your biological clock adapts quickly
To do this, it's easy (in theory), just:
- THE MOST IMPORTANT : expose yourself to natural light as soon as day breaks, to make the body understand what time of day it is. Here we are not joking, as soon as we get out of bed, we go out and put ourselves in the sun for 10 minutes (not behind glass eh, we go out in the open air to capture all the rays of the sun, it is THE essential factor to recalibrate biological clock).
- Sleep when it's dark on the spot
- Resuming habits that you had in your old life at a specific time of the day. For example, in my personal case, I always have a coffee when I wake up, I do physical exercise at the end of the afternoon and I start preparing food around 7 p.m.
Keep in mind that the most effective solution to combat jet lag is light. This is the only real way to regulate the internal clock of the human being over time.
⭐️ Horusian Tip : Take a hot shower just before going to bed to trigger sleep. To fall asleep. the body naturally drops in temperature. The shower will heat the body which will then create a relative cooling of the body and simulate the ideal temperature change to induce sleep.
Tip number 7: eat and drink well, the secret to good recovery
Food and hydration play a major role in the body's recovery. Eating healthy and balanced during and after the trip is a huge plus.
To do this, it is recommended to consume:
- foods rich in protein and fats that help maintain energy and concentration,
- foods rich in vitamins and minerals that help strengthen the immune system.
- to eat light before and after the flight, to promote digestion and therefore quality rest.
Tip number 8: very useful tools to help you get organized
Frankly, the best way to avoid having to think about all this is to use an automated tool.
1. The Planner
The Jet Lag Rooster site allows entry of trip data and offers advice on how best to adapt to a new time zone. The strategies offered include daylight, food, anticipating the hours of sleep or even taking melatonin, all of which are tips already mentioned in this article.
2. The interactive app
There's also Timeshifter , an app that uses the science of sleep to help you plan your trip based on your internal clock and sleep patterns. This way you can minimize jet lag easily.
Both are fine. The first allows you to better anticipate and the second allows you to be guided on autopilot.
The final word: how to avoid jet lag
Jet lag creates adverse effects on the body by impacting the circadian rhythm and causes symptoms such as fatigue, insomnia or dehydration. Fortunately, by taking precautions such as planning sleep, gradually adapting to local time, modifying diet or using blue light blocking glasses, it is possible to effectively mitigate the effects of the jet. lag, to recover more quickly and to return to a normal rhythm of life.