Have you ever taken a trip to another time zone and simply felt “off?” You most likely suffered from jet lag, and it can affect travelers as soon as they arrive for their vacation or after they get back from it. At Value Parking, plenty of our EWR parking customers have suffered from jet lag (as well as many of our employees) and here, we share some insight about the condition and how to prevent it:
What Is Jet Lag?
First, let’s talk about what exactly jet lag is. Jet lag isn’t an illness that you can catch or spread; instead, it’s psychological. When you travel across several time zones, your body’s circadian rhythm (the 24-hour system on which your body operates) becomes thrown off. Your body has its own internal clock that is synchronized with the daylight and the darkness of each day. When you shift those hours of daylight and darkness, your body may not have time to adapt and it can begin to show signs of jet lag.
Jet Lag Symptoms
While jet lag affects every traveler differently, some of the most common symptoms include:
- Increased irritability
- Difficulty focusing
- Gastrointestinal issues
- Loss of appetite
- Mild depression
How to Prevent Jet Lag
Adjust Your Sleep Schedule
Because jet lag is considered a sleep disorder, you can work to prevent it by pre-adjusting your body to the time zone you’re traveling to. For example, if you’re traveling from Newark to London, you’ll be traveling 5 hours into the future. If you usually go to bed at 9 p.m., you’d technically be going to bed at 2 a.m. in London.
To help your body adjust, try going to bed 1/2 hour earlier each night starting one week before you leave. In one week, you should be going to bed around 5:30 p.m., which equates to 10:30 p.m. in London. Once you get to London, you should be able to fall asleep pretty easily once that time rolls around.
Follow the Light
Our bodies have an internal alarm that wakes us up when it’s light outside and makes us tired when it’s dark. To cater to your body’s instinctual ways, try sleeping shortly after sunset or waking up shortly after sunrise (depending on whether you’re ahead or behind your time zone). This can help your body adjust and help you feel more on schedule. In addition, eat your meals at regular breakfast, lunch, and dinner times during the day.
Dehydration can enhance the effects of jet lag, and if you’ve ever flown before, you know the air in an airplane can be pretty dry. Do yourself a favor and stay hydrated in the days leading up to your trip, during your trip, after your trip, and while you’re on the plane. Water helps your body operate at its best and can help you stay healthy.
If you’re traveling for an event, such as a wedding or an interview, book your flight a day or two early if possible. This can give you enough time to adjust to the time difference and feel more alert and focused once it’s time for the event. On the other hand, you could take a day or two off of work after your vacation to give yourself time to readjust to your own time zone.
Common Jet Lag Questions
Q: How long does jet lag last?
A: On average, the body adjusts to 1-2 time zones per day, so how long your jet lag lasts usually depends on how many time zones you crossed. For example: if you traveled six time zones, it will probably take 3-5 days for your body to get back to normal.
Q: Does the direction you travel make a difference?
A: Yes. When you travel west to east, you’ll likely have trouble falling asleep; when you travel east to west, you’ll likely have trouble sleeping in. For most, not being able to sleep in is less of a problem than not being able to fall asleep (and our EWR parking company agrees).
Q: Who is at risk for jet lag?
- A: People who travel across three or more time zones
- A: Older adults (older adults may recover more slowly)
- A: People with pre-existing sleep or stress conditions
- A: Frequent fliers (flight attendants, business travelers, etc.)
- A: People who drink heavily (alcohol can worsen symptoms)
Q: Are there any medications to treat jet lag?
A: No. There are no medications designed specifically for jet lag. Because jet lag is a psychological condition, however, many travelers turn to melatonin to help them sleep when they need to sleep.