Flying is well known to disrupt your sleeping patterns and make it ten times harder to get a good night’s sleep when you reach your destination or return home from your vacation. Flying, especially long distances, takes a toll on your sleep and your body. But the more you know how flying affects your body, the better you can cope and the higher your chances of getting a good night’s sleep.
Inside your brain you have something called a circadian clock – your body clock. This body clock regulates all kinds of aspects of your life. One of the most important functions is the regulation of your sleeping and waking cycle. Your body clock also regulates your mood, even your digestion. This clock takes strong clues from light in order to function well.
When you fly across time zones your exposure to light is quickly adjusted – more quickly than it would be when you stay at home. Your internal clock is set out of time – you enter new time zones faster than your body clock can regulate itself. This results in jet lag. Your body eventually adjusts to time differences but it may take a while. It is better to fly from east to west because the internal clock is better able to operate in this manner.
When you travel you may also suffer from tiredness, which is not exactly jet lag but is similar. The stress of flying and your inability to fall asleep on the plane cause you to feel more tired than usual. You may also be dehydrated and your body may be aching and stiff. When you are tired you will find it harder to make decisions and cope with stress. When you arrive at your destination try to stick to your destination’s time – sleep when everyone else sleeps and wake when they do. This will make it easier to adjust to jet lag. You may also find that exercise and napping help with feelings of tiredness.