Desynchronosis, flight fatigue or circadian rhythm disorder. However we describe jet lag, it really has the potential to ambush the first few days of a holiday. And with New Zealand travellers having to fly longer and further than all other nationalities to Europe and North America, what are the best strategies to manage the symptoms of jet lag, hit the ground running, and maximise your travels?
Timing is everything
On arrival, try and stay awake until it's bedtime in the destination. It can help to choose a flight which arrives in the early evening so you don't have to stay awake throughout the day. If you do arrive in the morning, it's OK to take a short nap, but be sure to get up soon after and get in sync with the local timezone.
Take it easy on the flight
Minimise drinking coffee and alcohol during the flight and stay properly hydrated by drinking lots of water.
Go for a good walk
Exposure to sunshine and natural light can help to reset your body clock so get your walking shoes on and explore the local neighbourhood or nearby parks when you first arrive. It's a handy way to get your bearings in a new city too.
Melatonin is a naturally occurring hormone which regulates the body's sleep-wake cycle. Take the melatonin approaching bedtime for a few days before you leave and for a few days upon arrival to help keep your body's melatonin levels up. It can be obtained by prescription through your doctor, but is available over the counter in most Asian countries and in the United States. You can even stock up if you're flying through Singapore's Changi Airport. But we would advise to always check with your GP first.
Incorporate a stopover
If you're flying all the way to Europe or the east coast of North America, schedule in a stopover en route. Your body will have the opportunity to adjust more gradually to the changes in timezones, and you'll see more of San Francisco, Singapore or Dubai than just the airports' transit lounges.
Limit the use of electronic devices
The blue light emitted by smartphones, tablets and laptops can hinder the ability to sleep so avoid checking your email and social media feeds for an hour or so before you want to sleep. If you're keen to grab some rest on the flight, take it easy with the movies or binging on an entire season of Game of Thrones! Although it is very tempting indeed!!
Follow your normal routine
Try and recreate your normal bedtime routine during your first nights overseas. If that's a warm shower before bed or a cup of chamomile tea, the theory is your body will be tricked into thinking you're still at home. Good luck asking the team at the hotel's reception if they have a cat you can put out for the night though!
Give yourself every chance to sleep
Whether it's street lights and noise outside, or annoying LED lights flashing from a bulky 1980s TV, many overseas hotel rooms can be packed with distractions. Cover up any excess light or gaps in the curtains, consider an eye mask, and remember to pack a pair of ear plugs, these are absolute essentials!