In the following article, David Barcomb discusses popular misconceptions about coping with jet lag. Jet lag is definitely one of the most irritating parts of international travel. As excited as you are about visiting a new country and seeing new things, for the first few days, you’re run down and irritable. Although jet lag has been with us for as long as air travel, there are still some lingering myths about how best to address the problem. Here are some of the most pervasive.
Myth: “I’ll have a couple of drinks, and I’ll be fine.”
Drunk sleep isn’t restful sleep, even during normal conditions. During a flight, however, when you’re easily dehydrated and likely cramped in an uncomfortable position it’s even less helpful, and won’t leave you feeling refreshed. If you’re nervous about flying, it can be difficult to turn down a nice, relaxing cocktail, but pass it up. Drink plenty of water instead.
Myth: “If I sleep on the plane, I won’t have jet lag.”
Maybe, but probably not. Technically, lack of sleep doesn’t cause jet lag. It’s the disruption in our circadian rhythm that’s the real culprit. Your internal clock is triggered by the day/night cycle of your home region. Having to adjust to a new cycle confuses the brain and causes the disorientation, fatigue, and general malaise of jet lag.
Whether or not you sleep on the plane is less important than your ability to sleep soundly through the night once you arrive. If you land during the day, get plenty of sunlight and some activity until the evening, then wind down and go to bed.
Myth: “Just taking a sleeping pill during the flight cures jet lag.”
Self-medicating with sleeping pills won’t guarantee feeling refreshed and avoiding jet lag. It certainly won’t help if you’re so drowsy after the flight that you sleep during the day after you arrive. Don’t ever take prescription medication without a doctor’s consultation and approval.
There are lots of people named David Barcomb on Facebook. But this David Barcomb is an enthusiastic seasoned traveler, a avid reader of obscure history books, and works at Merrill Lynch as a managing director.