Jet lag - long distance flight

Jet lag – The power of time

Tim Takeoff
2 pictures
4 minutes

Everyone in Germany has heard of the Geissens, the family renowned for their wild, high-society, jet-set lifestyle. Their fame is a mixture of nouveau riche novelty and spectacular showing off: “Look where we’re going this time!”

Nowadays, though, long-haul travel is no longer the exclusive preserve of the privileged and it’s definitely worth getting to grips with the time difference before your next holiday or business trip. Extreme fatigue, gastrointestinal issues or a general feeling of malaise are frequent signals that your own biorhythms are asking, “What on earth are you doing?”

What exactly is jet lag? Well, it could be said that any deviation from your normal daily routine can cause both physical and psychological issues. Jet lag is a delay in our bodies’ adaptation to an actual time shift, or “lag ”. Although it may sound complicated, most people experience a mild form of “jet lag” twice a year when we change our clocks from summertime to wintertime. Although we don’t actually gain or lose an hour of time, our subconscious minds take note of the official difference.

The key to coping with jet lag is to trick our bodies’ internal clocks a little – or, at least, to weaken their effects as much as possible – all the while maintaining the best possible healthy balance.

East or west?

When it comes down to it, the human body was not designed to travel across a number of time zones within a short space of time. This is, of course, something we do most frequently during long-haul plane journeys, with the direction of travel playing a defining role. While Europeans are eating breakfast at around 8 o’clock in the morning, European travellers in Chicago are lying awake at 1am, waiting for their hotels to begin serving breakfast. If, on the other hand, you were still in bed at what would be 8 am European time in Asia, you would miss lunch. After all, it’s already 2pm in Hong Kong.

How, then, can you deal with these time differences? Firstly, you need to decide how much time you will be spending at your destination and when you need to perform certain tasks. If you’re going on a sightseeing holiday, you obviously want to perform a complete time shift. This is the only way to take full advantage of daylight at your destination – and it’s only unpleasant at first. It’s been scientifically proven that the body adapts to a different schedule at the rate of approximately one hour per day. By adjusting the light and darkness of your surroundings, as well as your mealtimes, you can accelerate the process. Even if jumping straight into a different time zone’s schedule feels like being hit with a sledgehammer, it may be the only way to fit in quickly with local activities at your holiday destination.

Short trip? Stick stubbornly to your normal schedule!

If you don’t have to adhere to a strict schedule at your destination, you can avoid jet lag upon your return by staying within your home time zone for trips of less than four or five days. Short business trips are perfect for this. It’s not exactly easy, but with a few tricks, a little planning, and a bit of diligence, it can be done. Taken to its logical conclusion, it would involve spending several days experiencing little to no sunlight.

Eat on time

First and foremost, you’ll want to keep an overview of the precise time. A watch which displays multiple time zones in parallel is a good travelling companion. Several days before leaving on your trip, you should take time to consider your new situation. When you’re eating lunch in Europe, for example, it’s already late evening in Asia. You should take this into account if you don’t want to arrive at your 2chosen restaurant after they’ve closed. A detailed plan defining when you’re doing what or what you need to organize when is absolutely vital. Whether we’re talking about reservations, taxis, or the last subway train, it’s easy to get into a sticky situation if you don’t plan in advance.

You won’t reap the rewards of your own “jet lag strategy” until after your return home. If you come back from an extended tour of Asia, it tends to be no problem to go to bed early and to get up correspondingly early. It is, however, more difficult when you come back from the western zones and can’t ditch the “lie-in lifestyle” so easily.

You should, in any case, plan sufficient time to allow your body to recover from any long trip abroad and to allow your internal clock to reset slowly and gently. Or you could simply take a trip south (to Africa, for example), and neatly avoid the entire issue. If you’ve ever come home with major jet lag and have important tasks to complete, you know that jet lag is no laughing matter. The jet-set life may look exciting, but it’s by no means as glamorous as the Geissen family would have us believe …

Scheduling is not the only contributing factor to a trip’s success. You also need the best possible luggage. We’ll give you some tips and ideas on what to look for when selecting your suitcase. 

Main image © Pixabay jarmoluk

by Tim Takeoff

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