The Perils of Jet Lag

Posted by: Donna Smith - Contributor on Friday, October 13, 2017 at 9:00:00 am

For most of us who have traveled from coast to coast in the United States or internationally, we have most likely experienced the sensation of jet lag. Our bodies are not prepared to adapt to a rapid change in the light-dark cycle. It is a most undesirable feeling.  I have referenced my own occurrences as lethargic or having an out of body experience. Jet lag happens due to crossing multiple time zones which puts the internal body clock or circadian rhythms, which regulate your sleep-wake cycle, out of sync with the time in a new locale.

It generally takes about a day to adjust for each time zone.

Fortunately, there are things you can do prior to travel and during travel to keep jet lag in check.

Change your sleeping habits at home so they are closer to the time zone of your destination for a few nights before leaving. This will help your body become accustomed to the new sleep and wake patterns. Of course, for most of us, we are busy packing and taking care of details on the nights before leaving.

Any time I travel internationally, I often leave a day or two early before starting a tour or cruise.  It makes a big difference in helping my internal clock to adapt.

During your flight, be sure to stay hydrated.  Coffee and alcohol are diuretics and work at dehydrating the body so it is best to drink mostly water.

Sleeping during a flight is nearly impossible for me as I am a very light sleeper and cannot seem to get comfortable enough to get more than a few naps. I use earplugs, eye mask and neck pillow, but I am still unable to get into a deep sleep.

Once arriving at your destination the best thing you can do is to go outside.  The exposure to sunlight and movement helps to reset your body clock to make sleeping more manageable. Try not to plan any major activities on the day of arrival.

Avoid eating large or spicy meals the first night.  The body is not as effective at metabolizing food when jet lagged.

An hour or so before going to bed, dim the lights, close the blinds and cover any light from a tv, smartphone, clock or computer.  Even small amounts of light alter our body clock so when you are ready to retire for the evening, make the room as dark as possible.

There are other remedies that are supposed to curb jet lag such as homeopathic pills and supplements.  None are government approved nor have they been proven to be effective.

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