Traveling long distances comes with some excitement and new experiences. But there is something else that you have to deal with. While sun is shining bright your body still thinks that at home where it’s middle of night or early morning. Experienced travelers use the term ‘jet lag’ for this feeling. Mostly people feel exhausted in first days after arriving at far-away destinations.
In times when people where traveling more by car, train or even a horse, going to far away places took at least few days or even weeks. Human bodies had time to adapt to new conditions. Now we use air carriers a lot from getting place to place. It takes around 4 hours to go across the Europe; 7-8 hours from central Europe to US east cost or around 15 hours to far East countries. We cross different time zones without paying much attention to it.
Our bodies normally live in a 24-hour rhythm. While we sleep, the heart and breathing rates slow, the blood pressure drops, muscles relax and the mental and psychomotoric efficiency declines significantly. A rapid change to another location in another time zone disturbs phases in the human daily rhythm. Mainly we feel it as an interruption of usual cycles of sleeping and being awake.
Tiredness and slowed reactions combined with memory and concentration problems are the most frequent results. People can also suffer from headaches and a sense of nausea due to the interruption of their normal sleeping time. Therefore don’t plan a lot of physical activities in first two days after arrival.
Jet lag is more marked after an Eastbound flight than a Westbound one. The reason for this is that the human “inner clock” tends towards a rhythm of more than 24 hours. So if you fly from East to West (such as from Germany to the USA), the day is longer – which tends to suit the biological rhythm. Though is is kind of hard to stay awake for more than 20 hours. The human body adjusts to the new time zone about 20 percent faster than after an Eastbound flight (such as from France to Thailand), because flying East means ‘loosing’ several hours.
But from my personal experience I would say that going from Northern Europe to USA cases me more effects that coming back to Europe. Mostly it happens that in first day I would wake up at 4am and the add 30min every next day. So all the 7am clases at the seminars are ‘mine’ (which I wouldn’t do at home). But after a week in States I’m fine 🙂 Few times I’ve had headaches next morning after arrival.
More of travel cased fatigue you will feel if there are no direct flights and you need to take an additional segment before trans-continental flight. Therefore check the times, how long stop-overs are how much time you have. In European Airports 40min – 1hour is good connection with no rush if you stay in transit area.
When planning a trip, pay attention to departure – arrival times. After several trips overseas now I prefer to pick the flights with arrival times at US destinations around 7pm. Well, since I live in a city with no direct overseas flights, I need to take an additional segment to Scandinavia or Germany in the morning. Total travel time is around 9 hours with some short stop-over. Few days before the trip I go to bed later than usual to get closer to new daily rhythm. No sleep during the flight (two meals, some moving around & in-flight movies help a lot to stay awake) but can go to sleep short after arrival.
When traveling from USA to Europe my suggestion would be to pick evening departures for transcontinental flights because your ‘inner clock’ will make you sleep during the flight and you’ll arrive at new destination in the morning. It’s easy to stay awake while daylight & if you move around more or less then there is no problem to ‘survive’ till evening. For this reason I never had any problems with sleep after eastbound flights. Of course airplane is not the best place for sleeping but it’s still better than stay up for 20 hours and arrive at European destination at 3am.