In this global village we call Earth, regular and even frequent air travel has become the norm for many - whether for business or pleasure. And if we have to travel across time zones, there is that all important jet lag to contend with.
How to make it go away or at least become less of a problem?
Common jet lag symptoms are:
- Impaired coordination, insomnia and even restless leg syndrome
And it does not help if you are middle-aged or older, out of shape or eating an unhealthy diet. Plus flying East gives you more jet lag than flying West.
Obviously, if you can afford to travel first class or business class, then this is half the problem solved but many of us travel economy which can be cramped at worst and a bit squashed at best.
It is best to start planning your anti-jet-lag-campaign a couple of days before your flight. Easier said than done, but you should get plenty of sleep before hand; you need to reduce your stress levels and you need to exercise regularly. All of this in those couple of days before you fly when you are usually rushing around, packing and getting last minute things done is not going to be easy.
Some basic tips
- Take a travel pillow. Use the one supplied by the airline to support the lower back and use a normal size pillow or a wrap around one to stabilize your head and neck area while helping you to get as comfortable as possible. Use a sleep mask to cut out the inevitable light and ear plugs to cut out the noise. An expensive option is noise canceling headphones which apparently work so well. Wear comfortable clothes with warm socks and a sweater as air conditioning tends to make the cabins a bit cool for comfort. Take off your shoes.
- Avoid sleeping pills and any other supplements “touted as the answer to jet lag”. I take a few drops of Rescue Remedy to relax me.
- Avoid alcohol during your flight. The pressurized air in the cabin causes your body to dehydrate substantially and alcohol affects the body clock by not giving you a full and refreshing sleep. Try to drink as much water as possible. Buy a large bottle of water when you have been through security at the airport, drink as much as possible from it when you are waiting for your flight and then once on board, ask the flight attendant to fill it up every time she comes by with her drinks trolley so you can take sips as often as possible.
- Although all the airlines I have been on in the last couple of years have educated their passengers on the advantages of exercising whilst in flight, it bears repeating that you should move around, walk up and down the plane, do some stretching exercises to keep the blood circulating and to stop the joints from stiffening. When you are in your seat, exercise your feet and ankles – up and down and round and round.
- Set your watch to the same time as that of your destination and try to sleep (and eat) according to that. This helps your body to start the change in its body clock. Take some healthy energizing snacks with you to help with the eating body clock.
- If it is day time when you arrive, try not to sleep. Rather go outdoors and into the sunshine if possible. Studies have shown that exposure to bright light helps shift the circadian rhythms (body clock) and therefore reduce the jet lag symptoms. So expose yourself to bright daylight as soon as possible upon arrival. This should be for at least 15 minutes and without sunglasses.
- This is the time to do your grounding or earthing. This is a subject that I have written about before. If you can kick off your shoes soon after landing after a long haul flight across time zones and connect with some grass or sand or even a stretch of water for about half an hour, it is said you will avoid jet lag. I have not been on an air flight since I found out about this method but I intend putting it to the test the next time I fly.
- Then if you are really dropping and you just have to sleep, have a hot bath, set your alarm for 2 hours time and go to bed.
Our body clock
Interestingly, researchers at the University of Manchester in the UK have now discovered how the body clock works which could provide clues to help combat jet lag. There are special cells which they say play an important role in regulating a person’s body clock. The cells had been thought to be inactive during the day but their research found the opposite to be true. Professor Hugh Piggins, an expert in neuroscience at the university, said the research would allow a new approach to being able to tune our daily clock.
If you are about to cross all those time zones, follow the tips above to arrive a lot less ragged than normal.