Adventure travelers must not only cope with ordinary travel dilemmas of time changes and sleeping away from home, but must often deal with discomfort and noise as well. As a result, jet lag and travel insomnia can affect adventure travelers particularly harshly.
Basically, adventure travel comes in two basic varieties: soft and hard. In the soft kind of adventure travel, travelers can expect a bed at the end of a day of hiking, cycling, or other activities. In the hard kind of adventure travel, travelers might sleep in shelters with several other people, in communal dorms, in tents pitched on snow and ice, in crowded buses, or on middle-of-the-night air flights. Sleep is by no means guaranteed.
Jet lag is caused by the body’s “lag” in being able to adjust to a new time of day. Travelers are least likely to feel jet-lagged when traveling directly north or south, because the time of day doesn’t change. Travelers going from west to east are most likely to be jet-lagged because they lose. time (and, therefore, sleep). Travelers going from east to west will be jet-lagged, too, but possibly not as badly, because they gain time.
Preventing Jet-lag and Sleeplessness on Planes
Adventure travelers can have an especially rough time with jetlag, because they often jump off of an overnight flight and onto a bicycle or into a pair of hiking boots. A few strategies can help travelers minimize the effects of jet-lag so they are ready to face the next adventure.
Plan to stay a night in a hotel before commencing the adventure part of the journey. This helps account for any delays in travel plans, and gives the travel a chance to rest before setting out on a long-distance hike or a cross-country cycling trip.
If possible, on an overnight flight, try to get an exit row or a bulkhead seat. A window seat lets the traveler’s head rest against a window.
Bring a travel neck pillow. It’s not necessary to carry a heavy neck pillow stuffed with buckwheat; a simple blow-up air pillow will do the job, and fold into a pocket.
Natural sleeping aids such as melatonin help some travelers. Others use over-the-counter sleeping medications, or sleeping pills prescribed by a doctor.
Avoid alcohol: Although it is a depressant, it also interferes with sleep cycles.
Jet lag can be exacerbated by dehydration. Avoid caffeine, and drink a lot of water.
Try to get on the schedule of the destination as soon as possible. For example, if traveling to Europe on a plane that leaves at 8 at night, try to sleep immediately on the plane (because it’s already 1 or 2 in the morning in western Europe).
Upon arrival, try to push through and stay awake until evening of the first day. Make plans to do something easy but active on arrival, such as visiting a city museum or walking around a park. Follow up with an early dinner and then call it a day.
“No jet-lag” homeopathic pills are a natural jet lag remedy made from a combination of herbs. They are available in health food stores, and have gained quite a following among travel writers who jump time-zones for a living. They should be taken before and during a flight.
It can take several days to adjust to let lag.
Preventing Sleeplessness or Travel Insomnia During the Trip
Travel insomnia is different from the everyday variety, in that it is a temporarily condition, usually caused by sleeping in an unfamiliar location. Sleep disturbance can be caused by noise, discomfort, cold, insects, and other disruptions.
In communal lodgings, use ear-plugs.
Noise-canceling headphones can also remove a traveler from the cacophony of too many companions.
Bring eye-covers in case it is necessary to sleep with the lights on.
Be sure to have a handy bag of night-time comfort items, including painkillers for sore muscles caused by the day’s activities, antihistamines for allergies, anti-itch ointment for bug bites, tissues, and a flashlight.
If sleeping in a tent, use a clothing bag or an air-pillow for extra comfort. in cold climates, keep a hat handy since most body heat is lost through the head.
Bring comfortable loose clothing to sleep in. Pajamas that cover legs and arms can be worn around communal sleeping areas, and protect the traveler from insect bites.
By taking care of basic comfort needs, using sleeping aids (in moderation, and only if necessary), drinking lots of water, avoiding caffeine and alcohol, and adhering to a sensible schedule, travelers can minimize the effects of both jet lag and travel insomnia.
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