Jetlag is awful. I cannot stand Jetlag – it seems such a waste of time and energy.
I am currently in the throws of Jet Lag and can’t wait for it to end. I need to begin to think and act like a normal adult and not a hangry toddler. The subject image I’ve used for this post (the blue lines with the bright orange) is a representation of how I feel – all over the place and sick.
I used to think that Jet Lag was all in the mind. I used to think Jetlag was something you could just snap out of or just distract yourself. I was wrong. There are a whole bunch of biological factors that contribute to jetlag with your brain being in control of the discomfort you experience.
Below is a set of facts that I have sourced from all over the place. These facts will give you a good understanding of where Jet Lag stems from and what it entails.
JET LAG FACTS
(i’m not making these up – all facts have been sourced*)
- Jet Lag is caused when your Circadian Rhythms are disrupted and are different to the external daylight and darkness cycles.
- Your Circadian rhythms make up the 24 hour clock of your body, they are the biochemical, physiological, and behavioural cycles in your body generated in the part of the brain called the suprachiasmatic nucleus”(SCN).
- Jet Lag is also known as time zone change syndrome or desynchronises according to
- Jet Lag will be even worse if you also travel between different hemispheres.
- The more time zones you cross, beyond one or two time zones, the worse your Jetlag will be.
- Jet Lag is worse when travelling East.
- Jetlag isn’t just being exhausted during the day and awake at night. Symptoms of Jetlag include stomach problems, constipation or diarrhoea (excellent), mood changes and difficulty concentrating
- The Older you get the worse your Jetlag is. Sorry mom and dad, I think that’s you However the converse is also true – children should be able to get over their Jetlag much quicker than adults and the symptoms should be milder.
Physicists using a mathematical model have said that it’ll take more than 4 days for people travelling East to recover from a flight that crosses three time zones, and 8 days to recover from crossing six time zones.
JETLAG and Kids
While the facts above are clearly sourced and have been researched and experimented against I do have to disagree with the finding regarding the effect of jet lag on children.
Having travelled internationally with both kids and flown long distances (we haven’t flown for more than 24 hours yet though and I don’t plan to anytime soon) we have experienced jet-lag as parents which is far worse than jet lag as an individual. The little ones just seem to suffer at the hands of Jet Lag and at that age they’re unable to understand or process what is going on which, I think, makes it even worse. While the research indicates that jetlag shouldn’t be as bad for kids, I find that this isn’t true for toddlers.
From about 10 months to 3 years they seem to suffer from it far worse than kids 4 years plus and is as the parents. I have no scientific facts to back this up – it’s is purely our experience. I remember flying from New York to Johannesburg and for weeks after we got back our 11 month old would just stand in his cot and cry. It was awful.
JET LAG REALITY
- Lying on the floor next to your child’s cot in the graveyard of toys that has been thrown out the cot. “Throwing your toys out the cot” just got literal.
- Being forced awake at 11am with burning eyes and naseau because it feels like 2am.
- Trying to hide in your bedroom in the middle of the day so you can fall asleep if no one finds you.
- Wondering if it’s too late to start a movie or a new Netflix series at 10PM.
- Letting children eat whatever they want, just so they eat at normal times.
- When you think you’ve sent someone a text message and you think you’ve received a detailed response but you’ve actually imagined the whole exchange.
- Craving cake at 2am unsure whether you’re awake or asleep.
Below is a note of the hours our children have been awake since we got home, as you can see it has not been fun. Especially seeing as my husband had to go back to work and the kids started at a new daycare.
While our kids haven’t been sleeping well at all, I think it could have been a whole lot worse if we hadn’t taken steps to limit the jet lag.
THINGS WE DID RIGHT
- Got the kids out into the sun as much as possible during the day. Light is the main thing that affects your Circadian Rhythms because the SCN controls your brain’s development of Melatonin (the chemical that makes you sleepy) and due to its location close to your optic nerve when there is less light your optic nerve tells your SCN to tell your brain to make more Melatonin.
- Sent the kids to nap and bed at their normal sleep times.
- Ate at the appropriate meal times.
THINGS WE SHOULD HAVE DONE
- Water. We should have drunk more water on the plane and encouraged the kids to do the same.
- Not slept. We caved and fell asleep during the daytime on the second and third day. We just couldn’t keep awake (NHS UK says not to nap if you can avoid it, rather get back into your normal sleeping routine).
- Sleep earlier. NHS UK suggests you do the following before you travel “if you’re travelling east, try going to bed an hour earlier than your usual time, and if you’re travelling west, try to go to bed an hour later; the idea is to “prime” your sleeping routine with your destination in mind“
- Allow a bit of caffeine in your diet. The Mayo Clinic suggests having a bit of caffeine before midday when you are hit with the daytime fatigue.
- Done the calculations. We should have looked into the various Apps available which help you calculate how best to prepare yourself for the time change or put in our details on the website Jet Lag Rooster.
- Changed our watches. The Sleep Foundation says the simple act of changing your watch when you board the plane could help reduce Jet Lag.
- We should have slept when the kids slept but there seems to be so much to do when they want to nap during the day.
ADDITIONAL RECOMENDATIONS TO DO TO COMBAT JETLAG
- Break up long distance flights with a few days half way between. As soon as you land adapt to that time zone.
- Decide whether you do want to adapt to local times at your destination. I’ve found a few stories online about families who were travelling to places where they could keep their “home” routine because of the place they were staying at being open all night and their trip not being as long.
ADDITIONAL SUGGESTIONS THAT CAN’T BE CONFIRMED
In an attempt to survive the jet lag I did a lot of research to see if there was anything else I could be doing to limit the effects. I came across a plethora of ideas and thoughts but those which I haven’t included above are because they have not been scientifically proven or have actually been disproven. Below is a list of those things and the extent to which they may be valid.
- Eating right. There is no evidence to suggest that eating certain foods will help change your circadian rhythms which go to the heart of the cause of Jet Lag.
- Exercising. While getting out and exercising is good if it exposes you to more light and helps you return to your routine, exercise in itself will not stop your Jet Lag. Research indicates that only the level of fitness that is achieved by a professional athlete will be sufficient to limit the Jet Lag.
- Melatonin. There are plenty of advocates for taking Melatonin tablets and a lot of people who have used Melatonin swear by it. It also makes sense because of the function of the SCN but there is insufficient medical research at this juncture to prove that it does have an effect.
- Dosing your children. Many a desperate parent has used paracetamol or ibuprofen or even strong medication to induce sleep but the makers of these products and various National Health Institutions warn against it. It is not safe and children may even have adverse reactions to the medication causing them to be hyperactive.
And so, that is all I have to offer you and I hope that it helps and your Jet Lag is far better than ours. May you have a peaceful sleep soon.
List of Sources
the Mayo Clinic
the Journal of Biological Rhythms and
the UK NHS.