Having just returned from three weeks in New Zealand, entailing a 12-hour flight, I am anticipating experiencing some jet lag. So while it’s on my mind, let’s talk about it.
Jet lag is a physical reaction to a rapid change in time zones, affecting most travelers with common symptoms such as disorientation, irritability, fatigue, swollen limbs and eyes, headaches, cold-like symptoms and irregular bowels. Makes you really want to get out there and travel the world doesn’t it? And those of you who live by a regular schedule (up at 7am, in bed by 10pm every night) are going to be hit the hardest.
The good news is there are ways to minimize these symptoms. Here are a few.
Before you go, treat your body right. Exercise, sleep well, stay hydrated and stay sober. Restrict your diet to foods that are easily digested. Performing some type of exercise before going to the airport may help you sleep better on the plane. At the airport, avoid the escalators and moving sidewalks. Instead, walk and take the stairs.
Adjust your sleep habits before you leave. If traveling from the West to East Coast, you’re facing a three-hour time change so you should try to adjust your internal clock. A week or so before you leave, start going to bed a little earlier. That way, if you become accustomed to falling asleep at 7-8pm, it will be the same as falling asleep at 10-11pm on the East Coast.
You might consider taking the widely available homeopathic remedy, No-Jet-Lag, which some people swear by. It has also been found that a component (natural melatonin) in dried cherries may help alleviate jet lag.
To combat jet lag during the flight you should, again, treat your body well. Stay hydrated by drinking plenty of non-alcoholic, non-caffeinated fluids. And don’t be afraid to ask the attendant for extra water. Get up out of your seat at regular intervals to walk and stretch. Do some isometric exercises at your seat, like toe raises, stomach crunches and shoulder shrugs, which keeps your blood flowing and prevents it from pooling at your extremities.
Keep in mind that everyone experiences jet lag, and this too shall pass. Allow yourself one day to recover for every hour of time difference that you experience. And finally, I have found the more you do it, the easier it gets.