How many are we in the air? 4.3 billion(1). The number of passengers who flew in 2018. Air traffic is constantly increasing and more and more travellers are experiencing jet lag, with more or less intensity. If you change time zones often, our anti jet lag guide should help you land smoothly.
WHAT JET LAG MEANS
If a few hours by plane are enough to travel from one continent to another, our body needs a little more time. And on arrival, the jet lag often greets us as soon as we leave the airport. This term refers to all the symptoms felt during the period of adjustment of our internal clocks. The duration of the flight depends on the number of meridians overflown.
Indeed, most of our biological processes - appetite, digestion, blood circulation and the alternation between sleep and wakefulness - are synchronized according to the circadian rhythm, lasting just over 24 hours. This rhythm is determined in part by our environment, particularly the brightness and its variations throughout the day. During the journey, the loss of these cues confuses the body.
The jet lag then manifests itself, often with an intensity that is proportional to the time difference. Insomnia and waking up at night, fatigue in the middle of the day, digestive problems or even alertness disorders are among the most frequently cited symptoms. A three-hour gap between the place of departure and arrival is enough to disrupt our body's rhythm for a few days. To help it adjust in time for the holidays, we use the flight as a transition with these few gestures.
Between the heavy suitcases, the impatience to be there, and the total change of environment, any trip is a source of stress. To better manage it, we dedicate the week before departure to our sleep. Nights of 7 to 9 hours are essential to recharge your batteries.
If you want to get a bit ahead of the game, it is possible to take it easy at the pace of your destination country. Going to BED a little later every night if you are travelling westward, a little earlier if you are travelling eastward, gradually prepares the body for jet lag. But if you're already sleeping late, it's best to keep your habits to make sure you recover before you leave.
IN THE AIR
Flying is a great time to pause your body, leave the demands of our hectic life on the ground and disconnect from your usual rhythm for a few hours. So that's where the first days of our trip are played out.
To slow down, you start by putting your digestion at rest. Indeed, in addition to natural light, the frequency of meals is one of the factors that influence the circadian rhythm. At higher altitudes, it is better to eat light, or even not at all. We grant you, it is easier to fast on a Paris - London than on a Singapore - New York (19 hours flight, who better?). But this break will also facilitate acclimatization. If you are hungry when you arrive, eating a meal at the same pace as the locals is a good way to give your body time.
On the other hand, there is no question of restricting oneself on the water. In the cabin, the air is much drier than on land and regular drinking is necessary to combat the effects of dehydration. Embark with a reusable bottle or an empty bottle, and ask the crew to fill it during the flight. The few glasses of water distributed to passengers are rarely enough. Alcohol and caffeine have the opposite effect because they accelerate dehydration. It is better to wait and eat them after landing, when the usual humidity in the air allows you to enjoy all the flavours.
We finally take advantage of the flight to rest as much as possible. A few naps, even short ones, help to regain energy during the day. If the screens of our seat neighbors, the crew's repeated passages in the corridors or the noise of the plane prevent us from doing so, why not practice meditation ? Among its benefits are(2)These include reducing stress and anxiety, lowering blood pressure or increasing the production of melatonin, an essential hormone for falling asleep. To be tried in flight if you never find time to get on the ground.
BACK ON EARTH
The objective? Set her internal clock back. If you arrive early in the day, the challenge is to stay awake until the night comes back. Exposing yourself as much as possible to daylight can help, but if it is not enough to fight fatigue, a little physical exercise can help boost our body and our good mood. Sport stimulates the production of serotonin and endorphins, two neurotransmitters essential for mood regulation and stress management.
Conversely, if the landing takes place at the end of the day, all stimulating substances and activities are limited to ensure that you get to sleep. The WHO estimates that at least 4 hours of continuous sleep is required to begin to rebalance our circadian rhythm. There will always be time to explore the next day.
As a general rule, it takes 1 day per hour of delay to fully switch to local time. Adaptation is sometimes longer and jet lag symptoms more severe when travelling eastward.(3)
AND FOR VERY SHORT STAYS?
It is not advisable to change your pace if you stay less than 3 days at your destination. The body will not have time to fully adapt to the local time before returning to its usual time zone.
(1) According to the International Civil Aviation Organization
(2) "Resynchronization of circadian oscillators and the east-west asymmetry of jet-lag", Chaos 26, 2016
(3) Meditation: Process and effects, Hari Sharma, 2015