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Few things in life are more inspiring and rejuvenating than travelling. For a new generation of modern nomads seeking exoticness, the world really becomes their oyster once they start travelling and exploring other places, near or far.

Whether you’re travelling for work, pleasure, or the blissful combination of the two (a.k.a “bleisure”) if you’re a true citizen of the world, you won’t be happy until you’ve set your feet on the 7 continents and make the most of every single experience.

While we all love to immerse ourselves in another culture, taste local food and meet new people, even the best travelling experience has its flip side. It’s called jet lag.

If you’ve have abruptly switched to another time zone before, you know the feeling.

Yes, travelling is pretty awesome, but jet lag is pretty awful.  


Jet lag: Know your Enemy

You’ve been planning the trip for weeks, maybe months. You can’t wait to finally get to your destination and start discovering all the wonderful things that await you. And then – bang! – jet lag hits you and you start feeling all the unpleasant symptoms associated with jumping to a different time zone in no more than the blink of an eye.

Because that’s what jet lag really is. Basically, it’s just a series of symptoms that occur when your body adjusts to a new time zone. It’s no big deal really, just your internal clock feeling a little unbalanced, disrupted, and making sure you notice it.

Reactions and symptoms vary from person to person, and even trip to trip. Maybe you are terribly sleepy. Maybe you’re just a bit lost and depressed. Maybe you’re experiencing fatigue, nausea and dizziness. Probably you are more short-tempered than usual, groggy, cranky or irritable.

In any case, it’s not the end of the world. You’re just jet-lagged and there are simple, effective ways to overcome it.


Of light and darkness

So how do you beat jet lag? You’ll have to “see the light, spread the light, be the light”.

Here’s how it happens. We all have a built-in internal clock, an innate timing device that keeps us in tune with the pattern of day and night and tells us what to do at what time. Our biological clocks produce circadian rhythms: the physical, mental, and behavioral changes that follow a daily cycle.

Circadian rhythms explain why someone is a “morning person” or a night owl, but they also affect hormone release, hunger, body temperature and blood pressure. While they are produced by natural factors within the body, circadian rhythms are affected by external elements, mainly daylight. And this is why jet lag can ultimately be pinned down to a matter of light and darkness.

According to researchers, sunlight is the most powerful natural tool for regulating the sleep-wake cycle. You can use it to reset your internal clock and adjust to new time zones quickly (there’s even an app for that!).

If you’re travelling east, you will have to advance your body clock so that it will be in sync with the new time zone. This means exposing yourself to morning light. If you’re traveling west, you’d want to do the opposite, avoiding morning light in the first few days, and exposing yourself to the afternoon light.

For most people, it’s harder to travel east than west, but the thing to keep in mind is that you should adjust yourself smoothly (this means sleeping in the airplane and wearing sunglasses to block out daylight when needed).


7 tips to beat jet lag

So, if you want to beat jet lag you’ll have to accept it and go with the flow. But you can take some preventive measures as well. Here’s how to regulate your internal clock after a long-distance trip and help your body –and mind –  catch up:

  1. Less alcohol, more water: During your flight, avoid drinking alcohol. According to the World Health Association it will only make jet lag worse. You’ll have plenty of time for cocktails when you arrive at your destination. Drink more water and prevent dehydration which could increase the feeling of fatigue or lethargy.
  2. After landing, start by adjusting your watch to the new time zone. This will help you adjust your mindset to the new time, and to be more present, in the moment, which is precisely what you need right now, in order to feel more comfortable and at ease.
  3. Eat healthy: Every day, but especially if you’re trying to beat jet lag. This means avoiding too many carbohydrates and sugar, as these foods will make your blood sugar peak and then abruptly drop setting you off balance and thus more irritable. Instead, eat lots of vegetables, healthy fat like olive oil and avocado and protein. Also, you should try to adjust to the meal times of the new time zone. If your stomach is sticking to the original time zone and you feel hungry, take a healthy snack and avoid the bad mood!
  4. Move that body: Feeling tired? Exercise. It might feel a bit contradictory, but workout can actually be a super antidote against jet lag. The whole idea is to get your heart rate up for a few minutes, nothing strenuous, just a little cardio to shake off those low vibes and put your energy levels and mental alertness back on track.
  5. Adjust to new bedtime and wake up hours: This can be hard, especially during the first couple of days when your body is still programmed for the original time zone, but do your best and try to go to bed and wake up like locals do. Sooner than you think you’ll be feeling fresh as a cucumber.
  6. Take a power nap: So, it’s 10am at your destination, you’re exhausted after a long trip and have a full day ahead. Consider taking a power nap, better yet, use a heavenly mattress. It’s not cheating, it’s taking care of yourself. Just make sure your nap is as powerful as it is short. In order to be effective, power naps should take 25-30 minutes. More than that and you will fall into deep stages of sleep, making it hard to fall asleep later and feeling confused for the rest of the day.
  7. Boost your Melatonin: This most docile hormone helps you regulate your internal clock, as it prepares your body for night time. If you’re having trouble getting to sleep, Melatonin can help until your body catches up with local bedtime. It’s like turning off the lights: take it 30 minutes before going to bed, and your jet lag will be history.

Now remember, if you’re staying for less than two days in a different time zone, your body won’t have the time to readjust itself, so you can stick pretty much to the original time zone and try to navigate elegantly through your day at your destination. Have a nice trip!


About Editorialista

Madalena Galamba is a writer and journalist. She learned how to write in 1981 and hasn't stopped since. She studied journalism in Lisbon and cinema in New York. She spent some years of her youth in Paris, and even though she didn’t have to live in an attic, the experience left an indelible mark. She was the founder and editor of Blue Design magazine and wrote for the newspapers Expresso, Público and Fora de Série. In 2017, she founded Editorialista, a copywriting and content studio based in Lisbon. She meditates regularly and her favorite idiomatic expression is probably Oh la la.

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