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A good night’s kip

Sep 30, 2019
As the whole of the global moving industry heads off around the world to join in the annual conference season, here’s some good advice from the sleep and wellbeing expert at Hypnos beds, Natalie Pennicotte-Collier, to help keep the dreaded jet lag away.

A good nights sleep

Jet lag is a temporary sleep disorder resulting from the effects of travelling across different time zones. If your destination is only a time zone or two away, you may need to make only minor adjustments.  However, when we journey long distances or perhaps fly across several time zones, few of us can travel without the effects of jet lag - feeling out of sync and fatigued.

Just how long does it take to recover from jet lag?

The human body clock will gradually readjust to a new time zone and symptoms usually improve within a few days, though a rule of thumb is that it takes one day per time zone going west to adjust and 1.5 days per time zone if travelling east.

Is jet lag worse if you travel east?

Jet lag is the confusion between your internal body clock and the actual time, and the effects get much worse when you’re travelling east as you’re losing time. Many frequent flyers travelling west find this an easier adjustment because the day is lengthened, rather than squeezed.

The further you travel and the greater the time difference, the more acute the impact is likely to be, especially if you are crossing more than three times zones or travelling east across the globe.

What else might affect recovery from jet lag?

One of the most common travel related sleep stress experiences is known as the ‘First Night Effect’ - feeling restless or experiencing travel sleep insomnia.

So many of us experience significant trouble when sleeping in a new and unfamiliar environment. It’s useful to remember there’s a biological reason why some of us won’t experience a deep quality rest or be able to sleep as soundly as hoped on the first night.

Scientists have discovered that we sleep ‘on alert’ when we first arrive in a new environment. Part of our brain stays more alert to ‘keep watch’ in case of danger, so it’s perfectly natural to experience some first night sleep turbulence but you can take back control of your sleep when you wake in the morning and help to encourage a better night’s sleep the next day.

 

What can we do to recover from and mitigate jet lag?

It’s highly useful to take a 360˚ approach to jet lag; taking into consideration mind and body. It’s amazing how quickly shifting your mind's perspective and following helpful lifestyle factors including eating nutritious food, increasing movement and ensuring mental rest and rejuvenation can help your body adjust to jet lag.

Here are my top tips to minimise jet lag symptoms upon arrival to your new destination:  

  • Plan your meals and harness your energy effectively to feel at your peak when it’s needed most.
  • It’s a good idea to time when you eat to suit your adjusting body clock so you feel your best for any holiday activities you have planned. Food can be a powerful way to stay energised and acclimatise to jet lag – even if you feel too tired or wired to eat.
  • Remember that your circadian rhythm (your 24-hour cycle of physical processes) is influenced by the timing of food, so use food as a highly useful cue to your body that it is time to stay awake if suffering from jet lag.

Light Relief - The Magic of Natural Daylight

Remember to optimise your plans where you can if you want to feel alert and focussed at your destination. Get out into the early morning sun as natural daylight is your best source of energy and most potent ally to cope with jet lag.

Keep hydrated

It’s normal to drink alcohol or too much coffee for early flights, but these will dehydrate you fast and worsen the symptoms of jet lag as your body recovers best when it isn't depleted of fluids. Try to keep alcohol, coffee and energy drinks to a minimum and instead opt for a far better choice - water for ultimate hydration. 

Another effective travel wellbeing trick you can do during your flight is to change your watch, phone or laptop to match the time of your chosen destination as this will mentally prepare you for the new time zone.

Get on the move

Exercise upon landing is essential to help you cope better against the symptoms of jet lag. Moving lightly through a gentle jog or even just a brisk walk outside in natural daylight after you’ve had trouble sleeping will help to boost your sense of well-being and combat feelings of tiredness and poor cognition.

Create a home away from home

Taking a sense of the familiar away with you can help set your bedtime routine.  Something as little as a favourite scent or a treasured photo can create a sense of safety and peace of mind leading to a better sleep environment while away from home. These easy travel wellbeing habits are important behavioural cues for sleep.

Finally, don’t forget how powerful the mind is, try to keep as close as you can to your usual bedtime routine, keep the room cool and listen to your favourite sleep relaxation tools as this will help promote a good night’s sleep wherever you are.

Hypnos sleep expert, Natalie Pennicotte-Collier

Natalie Pennicotte-Collier is a clinical hypnotherapist and mindful expert specialising in sleep, wellbeing and mental health, with over 10 years’ experience dedicated to understanding the human nervous system and how we can harness the power of the mind to enhance sleep, performance and wellbeing. She is also an in-demand performance coach and one of the few integrative therapists working across elite sport, where she provides consultation from her London clinic.

Photo: Hypnos sleep expert, Natalie Pennicotte-Collier

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