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The Traveller's Magazine
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Jet lag isn’t the only thing long-haul travellers need to deal with once they touch down in their destination. Stress, culture shock and a broken personal rhythm are just the start of what travellers experience when time zones and cultural borders are crossed. How can travellers prevent or at least lessen the effects of all of these? Let’s see.

Jet Lag

Jet-lag is without a doubt the most common thing that travellers experience when they fly long-haul. Changing time zones is completely disorienting when you need to eat, sleep and do your regular business at completely different times. Adjusting can take a quite a bit as well, depending on how many zones you cross. The effects? Confusion, insomnia, sluggish bowels, small appetite, among others.

As for which way is easier to travel, there have been some scientific studies that show that our body adjusts better and faster when our day is prolonged (travelling in a westerly direction) rather than when our day is shortened (travelling in an easterly direction). No matter which direction you travel though, you body knowns how to defend itself and catch up. Reduce the effects of jet-lag by getting to bed earlier (or later depending on direction) a few days before the flight and making sure to take your vitamins.


Stress doesn’t just affect your mood, it can affect your whole body. Signs of an over-stressed body are headache and stomach cramps. These are direct results of flying. Recycled air in the cabin and strained eyes after watching a few in-flight films will definitely cause a headache after arriving. As for the stomach cramps, we all know how unpleasant it can be to use the loo on a moving plane, not to mention having to make everyone in your row stand up in order for you to get out. Being forced to sit for hours upon hours really strains the muscles, so no wonder you’re exhausted afterwards.

How to fight it

  • When travelling east, it’s best to take a flight that will get you to your destination in the early morning. That way you have a change to sleep on the plane, preparing you for the following day. As for travelling west, search for flights that arrive in the evening. Try not to sleep during the flight so that you are ready for bed once you arrive, in a much more comfortable bed than an up-right airline seat.
  • Use your in-flight time as well as you can. Give your mind some exercise, avoiding to watch films for the whole flight duration. Spend an hour reading a good novel, doing some Sudoku or a
    Don't let this be you! (img: cc)

    cross work, watching a film, then relaxing with some music. Get up and stand every hour or so as well, keeping the blood flowing.

  • Avoid alcohol while flying. It’s much better to stick to water, juices and at most a coffee if you need help staying awake. Alcohol is dehydrating which will make it harder on your body to adjust.
  • Don’t over-eat. Pace yourself with light snacks throughout the day rather than a large meal at an airport restaurant or an in-flight meal. Stick to fresh foods, such as salads or soups, rather than a fatty meal that is heavy in starches and meat.

What the stats say

In fact after some studies scientists have been able to pin point which passengers are more likely to suffer from jet-lag than others. Curious? Germans are the most likely to be affected by jet-lag while Italian and Spanish travellers are able to adapt much easier. The reasons for this are quite varied. Airline passengers number one complaint though is leg room, not enough leg room to be more specific. Not much can be done about that though in Economy Class.

There are ways though to make flying more comfortable, even in Economy Class, and it starts at home. Don’t rush, pack your bags in advance and plan your transportation with plenty of time to spare. At the airport head to check-in right away. It’s proven that a passenger’s airport experience greatly effects how they feel for the rest of their journey. So arrive early and take your time browsing the shops, sitting down at a nice restaurant, relaxing in the lounges and you’ll be ready to fly!

Have some tips of your own for stress-free travel? How about fighting jet-lag? Share your tips by leaving a comment!

If you want to read more on jet lag, take a look at our previous article Jet-lag… how to fight it!.

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