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1 May 2017 , Geert Doorlag

Tips to beat jet lag

An amazing holiday to a distant and exotic destination is wonderful! It’s just a pity about the long journey and the jet lag, but what is jet lag in fact, and what can you do about it?

What is jet lag?

Jet lag tips

It is nearly time for your holiday and, if you are lucky enough to be flying off to another time zone, then you will probably have to deal with jet lag. Jet lag means that your body’s biological rhythms are upset. Your biological clock is found in the brain and it’s what makes you hungry every day around the same time, what controls your body temperature, but also what makes you feel tired and awake again. Your biological clock has a fixed rhythm of about 24 hours.

When you return from a holiday or arrive at your holiday destination, then you might well find that you can hardly stay awake during the day and suddenly feel really hungry in the middle of the night.

It is easy to change your watch when you arrive, but your biological clock is more of a challenge. On average, we need a day to adjust to a one-hour time difference. The extent of the impact depends on the person, but it is possible to do something about it. A fun case from the sports world and tips to beat jet lag!

Performance and jet lag

Elite athletes are often faced with jet lag. Many international competitions and training camps are held all across the world, which means that they prefer to travel weeks ahead of the competitions in order to acclimatise.

Research published in 2013 on American football players demonstrated that teams from the west coast won twice as often as teams from the east coast, and that this was partly due to the impact of jet lag.

Indeed, your peak physical performance occurs between 5 and 7 p.m., and is determined by your biological clock. Most football matches are played between 8 and 10 p.m. and the average time difference between the west and the east coast is about three hours.

Therefore, when players from the west coast have an away match on the east coast, they play the match when their biological clock tells them that it is somewhere between 5 and 7 p.m., and therefore an ideal time for delivering a great physical performance. When players from the east coast play an away match on the west coast, however, they play the game when their biological clock tells them that it is between 11 p.m. and 1 a.m. Bedtime, in other words.

How to beat jet lag

A few tips to help you cope with jet lag.

  • Start your holiday well rested. Jet lag can cause you to sleep poorly, meaning that you don’t get enough sleep. So, you are better able to cope with the jet lag when you start your holiday well rested.
  • Prepare your biological clock for the new time zone. When travelling eastwards, go to bed and get up a little earlier. When travelling west, go to bed and get up later. This will help your biological clock adapt and make the transition more gentle.
  • Adapt as quickly as possible to the rhythm at your destination. Avoid going to bed too early, even if you are tired, but also avoid staying up too late.
  • Make the best use of the daylight - enjoy it to the fullest! Our biological clock is strongly regulated by light, so try to go out in the morning and avoid too much exposure to light after sunset.
  • Allow for jet lag; although the impact is different for each one of us, we generally need a day to adjust for every hour of time difference.