It seems fitting that we’re writing this at 36,000ft on 747-400 heading for New York – the city that never sleeps. Where better to share our top tips on how to manage the one thing that can put a dampener on any far flung adventure; the curse of the frequent flyer – jet lag.
Sleep is regulated by our body’s internal body clock (or circadian rhythms to give them their proper name). Their job is to make us feel sleepy in the evening and bright and breezy in the morning every 24hrs, so ensure we get the 7-8hrs kip that most of us need. The sure fire way to throw them out of synch is to cross time zones. Jet lag presents itself in several ways – fly east and it’s most likely you’ll find it tricky to get to sleep at bedtime and then struggle to wake in the morning. Fly west and you’re in danger of feeling dozy early evening and then be wide awake at dawn. Either way – jet lag can mess our sleep up for days both when we arrive at our destination and when we head home. Making it difficult to concentrate and leaving you feel stressed out and irritable. It can even be the cause of digestive problems.
With more people than ever taking to the skies and with longer flights to far flung destinations being a reality for lots of us, it’s no wonder that this issue is a hot topic. We’ve clocked up a few air miles of our own over the years and so here are our tried and tested top tips for how to make sure jet-lag doesn’t turn your sleep patterns upside down…
1. Get light savvy
The biggest single thing we control that influences our sleep patterns is exposure to light. In particular, blue light, present in daylight and beamed at us via our computer screens – sends a signal to the brain that we should be awake. As light levels fall and night closes in, our body starts to produce melatonin – the sleepy hormone – making us feel tired and ready for some zzzz’s. So the best way to tune in to the time zone at your destination is to get outdoors and let the light levels send their messages to your brain. If you do wake up at 3am, don’t reach for your laptop or smartphone. Stay dark and try your best to drift back off until a more civilised hour.
2. Adjust your watch
As soon as you get on the plane (or sooner if you are really keen), change your watch to the time at your destination and sychronise how you spend your flight around that. Sleep when it’s night time where you are going, eat when it is meal time there, be active during their daylight hours…
3. Pick your flight with care
Not all flight timings are equal – some are harder on your body clock than others. If you are flying east, try to choose a flight that arrives at your destination early evening. Sleep just a few hours on the plane at the start of the flight (if it’s a biggy) so you arrive tired. Flying west, best to get a very late night flight, sleep as much as you can through the journey and then when you land, get out and get active until as close to bedtime as you can manage.
4. Build in a recovery day
If you have an important meeting, arrive a day early so you can get some good rest before hand. You’ve invested the time and money to fly all the way over there for there’s so no point turning up and not performing at your best. When you land home, take it easy. Work from home, avoid long drives, soak in a deep scented bath (our DREAM After Dark Oil is a perfect bathing companion as it eases away aching muscles as well as helping you drift off to sleep), have an early night. The more you can give yourself a break on your first day or two back, the faster you’ll be back to your normal sparkly self.
5. Drink smart
Stay hydrated. Ask any flight attendant – spending hours in an aircraft cabin sucks moisture out of your body big time. As well as making you feel and look rotten (headaches; fatigue; dry skin anyone?) dehydration also affects your body’s natural balance. Make sure you are well hydrated getting on the plane and plenty of water during the flight and once you land. Swap caffeine for chamomile if you want to get to sleep. Alcohol might make you feel sleepy short term but it gets in to your bloodstream much faster at high altitude so can be more of a hindrance than a help if you want to land with a spring in your step.
5. Eat lightly:
Heavy meals can sit uncomfortably on your stomach when you fly so better to eat lightly on board or, even better, before you travel. When you land keep it light to give your digestive system chance to settle (then after that feel free to go crazy on the local delicacies to your hearts content – rude not to!). Eating protein early in the day can promote alertness. While carbohydrates in the evening will induce drowsiness.
Aches and pains can keep you awake so after all that sitting still, get active when you land. Avoid vigorous exercise in the evening (it will interfere with your sleep) but put time aside to do some yoga or have a swim in the hotel pool. Both are perfect ways to stretch your muscles, get rid of stiffness and help your body readjust to being back on solid ground.
Safe travels everyone xx
(PS> Images spotted on pinterest. To see them and more on our kissthemoonxx pinterest boards click here)