travel

Why everything you've ever been told about jet lag is a lie.

Jet lag totally sucks but most of us have come to accept it as the cruel price we pay for travel.

We all have a few tips and tricks we use to reduce it as much as possible but still usually end up face-planting into our lunch or dinner with absolutely no desire to move because we are so comfortable.

Spaghetti makes for an amazing pillow.

A study into jet lag has found out why jet lag is worse when traveling east than west, and normally avoidable when traveling between the north and the south.

Researchers at the University of Maryland have found it is due to our body’s rhythm being disturbed slightly more when traveling in this direction due to the disruption to our ‘natural circadian rhythm’ which is basically how long our body thinks the day is.

The findings have been published in the Journal of Chaos and after measuring the average person’s circadian rhythm at around 24.5 hours determined that our bodies prefer to travel ahead in time than back.

Those Two Girls on the annoying habits of recent travelers. Article continues after this video.

That’s why it makes it easier for our bodies to cope with travel to the west because lengthens the day where as traveling east makes it shorter. So, for example, traveling east to a time zone that is, say, nine hours behind, is harder for our bodies to adjust to than traveling west to a time zone that is nine hours ahead.

Whatever, it just sucks.

Researchers plan further research to better treat jet lag but so far they recommend:

  • Preparing your body for your trip by using artificial light sources to mimic the daylight at your destination;
  • Resisting going straight to bed when arriving at your destination when it is still light outside.

Other tried and tested jet lag cures that may not work and have no medical basis whatsoever (so attempt at your own risk) include:

“Sleeping…I can’t stand it when people get all righteous. ‘Ohh don’t sleep – hold out and then go to sleep at the normal time.’ EUGH shut up.” Jessie

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This seems totally logical. If you are tired, sleep. Until you wake up at 1.30am three nights in a row unable to sleep because your body still thinks it’s day time. It is, in Europe. Maybe just stay there.

'Don't drink alcohol'. Image: Bridesmaids, Universal Pictures

"A mini-fast is a great idea, particularly if you wake up in the middle of the night. Don't eat!" Emma

Eating can make you feel sleepy as your body uses energy to digest all of that lovely food so some travelers suggest fasting that day to keep yourself awake. The growling of your stomach can also serve as a handy alarm clock in case you nod off while using the toilet or resting your head on the wall for a bit.

"If you land in the morning and you need to stay awake all day, you just have to eat a lot. Lots of high-energy good food." Kahla
Eating high energy food helps some people however it's probably more the act of chewing that does the trick for some. Although I know so many people who have fallen asleep WHILE chewing, that's how bad their jet lag was.

"Try not to drink alcohol or anything that may disrupt your sleep cycle." Melissa

This just seems like an obvious one because alcohol can be relaxing and make your even sleepier, especially if it is a lovely glass of red wine, although shots at a nightclub may make you more awake. Or an espresso martini.

'Stay away from caffeine'. Image: Just Married, 20th Century Fox
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"Stay away from caffeine until you're back in your regular sleep routine." Jodie

Except forget the espresso martini because some say avoiding caffeine is the trick. That way when you do eventually go to bed you can sleep. That means no coffee, no coke and NO GIANT TOBLERONE purchased at the airport. You walked past the first three Toblerone displays just fine but it was that last one that got you!

"Eating ALL OF THE BREAD durng the day and taking a sleeping pill at night for the first two nights of adjustment." Ally

Some people find sleeping pills handy when they wake up in the middle of the night but medication is never ideal.

"Sleeping pills seem like a good idea but you don't want to rely on them." Leigh

By using sleeping pills you aren't allowing your body to naturally adjust. So lets just strike this point and the previous one. Plus you should ALWAYS seek medical advice from your GP if considering any medication for any reason.

"Don't sleep during the day. Do whatever it takes not to." Frankie

This is the most popular method for curing jet lag. Try and stay awake until the sun sets, and this is the advice researchers advise, however if you are fighting a losing battle, if you must sleep, make it a nap. Alarm clocks won't work. You'll need someone to physically tip you out of bed to wake you up from a jet-lag-induced-nap but it will be worth it when you have a lovely sleep that night.

'Try and stay awake.' Image: Snakes on a Plane, New Line Cinema

"Stay hydrated. I'm just saying that because it sounds sensible." Gemma

Water cures everything it seems. I love that regardless of the issue - money problems, weight gain, weight loss, dry skin - "stay hydrated" is the cure. So, drink lots of water, that way the constant urge to wee will stop you from accidentally falling asleep maybe?

"Get there early or home early so you have time to get used to the new time zone." Lucy

Arrive at your destination a few days earlier than planned, before you schedule any activities or catch ups with friends and family. A good trick is to lie to well-meaning family members about your arrival date. Same goes for arriving home from your holiday.

'Arrive early at your destination and when you return.' Image: Bridesmaids, Universal Pictures

"I once walked around my lounge room in circles trying to stay awake from jet lag." Maree

Don't stop moving. You'll be amazed at the places your body can fall asleep when it is really tired. I remember falling asleep on a stairwell during my insane uni days and it felt so comfy. Then there was the time I fell asleep in my dinner after returning from a trip to Canada. So walk around, keep busy.

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