Jet lag is a term that I hear people repeating a lot. Everybody seems to fear it, without really knowing the exact causes or how to handle it. In general terms jet lag is a group of alterations that a person suffers when crossing more than four time zones, this normally is manifested as dizziness, sleep problems, changes in hunger, mood or many other symptoms. I am a medical doctor myself, but the idea is not to present here a whole lecture on the physiological causes, but to give certain advice that can help anyone to handle jet lag or minimize the effects of such a problem.
How each person experiences jet lag is very different, it may even change with the direction of the trip, even when this sounds amazing most people have bigger problems adapting when they travel from West to East. As more the person travels it is easier to handle jet lag, most professionals believe that this does not depend of the fact of being a frequent traveler in itself, but because the person learns how to behave during the trip.
The battle against jet lag starts far before the trip. The first thing to keep in mind is simple: prepare everything for the trip with enough time ahead. Those who prefer to prepare everything at the last minute will most likely become stressed in the hours previous to the trip and they will end up using valuable hours of sleep the night before in packing or in printing reservations.
The previous advice is closely connected with the next one, at least a couple nights before the flight try to get a good night sleep. Before going to bed at a decent hour, take a last look at everything you need for the trip, take a hot shower, a chamomile tea and enjoy the night.
Eat normally and healthy: this is very important, the high altitude of the plane changes gastrointestinal patterns, so before the flight it is basic to eat regularly and really healthy food, it is better to avoid alcoholic beverages and coffee before and during the flight.
Drink a lot of water, I never get tired of repeating this advice to friends and relatives, many studies are showing that jet lag has a powerful relationship with dehydration, so prepare the body with a lot of liquids, and carry with you at least a couple extra bottles of water for the flight.
Exercise! This is true not only to beat jet lag, but for life, but here we need to understand that as healthier the body is as better it will adapt to changes, so try to increase –always in a normal range- your level of exercise days before the actual trip and during the flight do not forget to stand and move around at least every two hours.
Move to the new time frame as soon as possible. Once I get in the airplane I move my watch forward to the new time, and I start thinking in that same frame. If I get to a place in the morning –even when I may be very tired- I do not go to bed until at least 9 pm. I adapt my schedule of meals to the one of the destination and I avoid thinking constantly on the time back home.
Stay Active: many other studies show the benefits of sunlight and activity for adapting to a change of time. So when one gets to a new destination it is a good thing to go and walk around at least half hour and receive good sunlight.
In my personal experience following these simple steps 1-planning ahead 2-good sleep 3-eating well 4- exercise 5- hydration 6-immediate time change and 7-staying active at the destination have helped me not only to decrease the effects of the jet lag, but to be able to say that I have almost completely beat it.