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How to Beat Jet Lag

July 16, 2010 | Permalink

Jet lag: no matter how often you fly, you’ll probably have to deal with it. And no matter how many people you ask, they’ll all give you different opinions about how to handle it. Airlines are now even going the distance to provide their customers with the things they need to beat jet lag, but these amenities usually come at a premium, so for most of us, we’ll have to look elsewhere. Road Warrior certainly isn’t the first or last to throw a hat into the mix of jet lag tips, but hopefully we can give you a bit of perspective on beating this quintessential travel stress.

The first step in dealing with jet lag is to understand what exactly it is and how it biologically acts on your body. In medical terms, jet lag is referred to as “desynchronosis,” which is a disruption in the circadian rhythm of your body. Basically what that means is that your body (all living things, in fact) adheres to a natural cycle of activity and inactivity in tune with its physical surroundings (light and darkness, temperature, etc). This cycle affects how you think, your energy levels, your tolerance for irritation and so on. When you travel a lengthy distance in a short amount of time (thus mismatching the physical environment with your internal rhythm), desynchronosis occurs. Though international flights usually create the worst cases of jet lag, just traveling from one side of the country to the next can set your rhythm back a few days.

The first thing to remember in trying to avoid jet lag is that it is a physical/medical condition, and not something that can be duped with an easy trick or pill. The best you can hope for is to minimize the effects by taking all the necessary precautions. Stay positive, and remember that it will pass. Though these tips will be helpful, the most important tool in beating jet lag is your own positive attitude.

  • First, plan ahead. If you know you can’t sleep on airplanes, don’t take a late flight. Similarly, if you get anxious before your travel dates and have trouble sleeping, don’t plan for an early morning flight. The disruption to your body rhythm can occur hours before you even get on the plane, compounded later by the distance traveled.
  • On the plane: drink lots of water. There are two reasons for this. One is that the pressurized cabin causes dehydration to set in quicker (which is why you should also avoid alcohol and greasy foods when flying). In addition to fending off dehydration, keeping hydrated well-hydrated usually has the effect of making you get up to use the restroom every so often. This is a good thing. During long flights, you want to get up and move as much as possible. Additionally, try some inflight exercises to keep your circulation flowing.
  • Once you reach your destination, go to sleep at your normal bedtime. You’ll feel the overpowering urge to sleep at either an earlier or later time, but try to resist. If you simply must take a nap, do not take a long one.
  • Lying in bed, staring up at the ceiling, waiting for sleep to come is perhaps the worst effect of jet lag. If you find yourself in this situation, don’t indulge it. Get up and go for a short walk around the hotel or block. If you’re traveling with a partner, and they are feeling the same way, engage them in a short conversation, or play a game together until sleepiness settles back in.

Extended Stay Hotels offer all the comfort and amenities of home to help you kick back and relax even after a lengthy flight.

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