Jetlag affects you differently depending on the direction of your travel
Jetlag can be a major obstacle to enjoying a vacation and settling back into your normal routine after returning home.
Why do people experience jetlag? What can you do to reduce the effects of jetlag?
What causes jetlag and why?
When traveling quickly between time zones, people can experience physical and cognitive symptoms called “jetlag”.
You’re synced to local time before you go on a trip. Your body’s rhythms will no longer match the wall clock once you enter a different time zone.
Jetlag can cause symptoms to appear at this time. When you’re jetlagged, you feel sleepy even though you want be awake. You may feel hungry at night and bloated if you eat in the day.
You will be physically and mentally confused until your body clock and the rhythms that it controls match the new local time. It’s not a holiday feeling!
Jetlag affects everyone differently
Jetlag is experienced differently by different people. This is because everyone has their internal rhythm.
The average daily cycle is about 24 hours. If we were to live in a dark cave, then our sleep/wake cycles and daily rhythms would be about 24 hours. Researchers believe it is an evolutionary adaptation that allows us to adapt to the different lengths of days throughout the year.
Read more: Morning lark or night owl? How our body clocks affect our mental and physical performance
But some people have slightly longer cycles than others, and this may play a role in how a person experiences jetlag.
According to research, a longer bicycle might help you adapt faster to travel westward, for example, when traveling from Australia to South Africa. However, we do not know if the shorter bike helps you go the other direction.
As we age, our resilience decreases. This is why older people may experience more jetlag symptoms.
What is the importance of direction?
Many people prefer to travel westward because you “gain” more time.
Jasmine and Sarah leave Adelaide at the same time. Jasmine arrived in Perth around 2.5 hours earlier than she did in Adelaide. She takes in some sights before falling asleep easily at around 8.30 pm local. She gets up early the next morning and begins her day.
Jasmine is synchronized after a few weeks because her body clock shifts a bit later each day relative to local time.
Sarah, on the other hand, arrives in Auckland about 2.5 hours after Sarah. She makes the most of the balmy night and the balmy evening, staying awake until 2 am. She struggles to get out of bed at 7 am because her body clock still says it is 4.30 am.
Sarah is likely to feel the effects of jetlag for a longer period than Jasmine.
You can begin the process of aligning your body clock with your new time zone even before you arrive at your destination. Shutterstock
Is jetlag just ‘psychological’?
Jetlag can be a mystery to some people. It is, in a sense, as it’s caused by a mismatch in the internal time of your body (which is set in your brain).
You can’t talk yourself out. This is more of a physical condition than a mental one.
There are several simple ways to reduce jetlag and adjust your body clock. It is especially important to elite athletes when they travel for competition.
Decide first if it is worth adapting to the new time. It might be more sensible to keep your own time if you are only going on a short journey. If you’re staying more than three days, begin to consciously shift your rhythms, such as when and how much you eat, sleep, exercise, or get sunlight, towards the new zone.
It’s best to begin your shift on the plane. Set your watch according to the time zone of your destination and plan your activities accordingly.
Avoid drinking alcohol and caffeine during the trip. It will improve your sleep, hydrate you, and help you adjust your body clock.
Try to sleep at night in the new time zone and rest only when necessary. You can boost your energy levels with short naps. Avoid naps that are longer than 30 minutes as you approach your planned bedtime.
Jet lag can cause stomach discomfort. Eat small meals when you are hungry if you tend to get stomach trouble while traveling. When your body is ready to eat, it will let you know. Tip 3 regarding caffeine and alcohol also applies.