How to Reduce Jet Lag

HOW TO REDUCE JET LAG

We’ve all felt that out of sync feeling, something between not having enough sleep, the flu and a hangover. You fly for 9 hours and then try to attend a meeting and cannot stay awake!

The problems are the time zone changes, the change in air pressure on the plane, which also causes dehydration due to the dryer air, and being cramped up for hours during the flight!

But it is possible to minimize the effects of jet lag by following some basic steps before, during, and after the flight.

Before the flight

Get plenty of rest and exercise before your trip.

Begin adjusting your body to the new time zone before you leave. For example, set your daily routine back an hour or more three to four weeks before departure. Then, set it back another hour the following week and the week after that. Easing into the new schedule gradually in familiar surroundings will save your body the shock of adjusting all at once.

Once you get on the airplane reset your watch to the time at your destination.  I wait until the plane is airborne and then set my watch.

Direction of travel

There seems to be some evidence that traveling west to east is more disruptive. This may be because most people have a circadian period which is a bit longer than 24 hours, making it easier to stay up later than to get up earlier.

It may also be that flights to the east are more likely to require people to stay awake more than one full night in order to adjust to the local time zone.

Many travelers think daytime flights cause less jet lag.

Drugs and Diet

“No-Jet-Lag”

This is a safe and effective remedy for countering jet lag, in the form of easy-to-take tablets. Its effectiveness has been tested in a scientific trial of round-the-world passengers and confirmed by long haul flight attendants in a test conducted in cooperation with their union. Being a homeopathic preparation using extremely low dosages, “No-Jet-Lag” has no side effects and is compatible with other medications.

Melatonin

This is a controversial and complex treatment for jet lag involving the manipulation of a hormone in the body, starting in the days preceding travel. Research shows that if you miscalculate the right time to take it, melatonin will actually make jet lag worse!

Anti jet lag diet

Another complicated method is the anti jet lag diet. Like melatonin, this is for people with lots of time on their hands who can devote several days before and after a trip to preparing. Although it has some passionate devotees it is complicated and there is little evidence that it works.

Sleeping pills (don’t!)

Some people use sleeping tablets to try to alleviate jet lag. This is a dangerous approach since sleeping pills induce a comatose state with little or no natural body movement, and it is well known that prolonged immobility during flight can lead to fatal blood clots (deep vein thrombosis).

This was reported as far back as 1988 in the Lancet, which said it was estimated “that over three years at Heathrow Airport, 18% of the 61 sudden deaths in long distance passengers were caused by clots in the lungs.” Picture the leg veins as bags of blood. When this blood doesn’t circulate there is a risk that it will clot. In addition, many so-called sleeping pills are variants on anti-histamines and they tend to dehydrate significantly, adding to the already significant problem of in-flight dehydration.

During the Flight

The dry air in aircraft causes dehydration. To avoid dehydration, drink plenty of water.

Water is better than coffee, tea, soft drinks (all have caffeine), and fruit juices. Caffeine not only causes dehydration but also disrupts sleeping schedules.

Alcohol not only is useless in combating dehydration, but has a markedly greater intoxicating effect in the rarefied atmosphere of an airliner than it does at ground level.

Passengers are encouraged to exercise their legs while sitting. Move them up and down and back and forth. Bend your knees. Stand up and sit down.

And best, move around the plane when the seat belt sign is switched off, every hour or two.

Stretch Yourself

Sitting for long periods in planes, trains or cars can lead to deep vein thrombosis (DVT), the formation of blood clots that can prove serious if they move from your legs to the lungs or heart.  Try these exercises.

  • Shoulder shrugs.
  • Bend and straighten the knees and elbows.
  • Get up and walk through the plane every 2 hours.
  • Lift and lower your feet on tiptoes to work the calves.
  • Lift your arms over your head, grip your hands together and lean from side to side.
  • Use a small pillow in the small of your back to keep your posture upright.

Upon arrival

A helpful way to minimize jet lag is to adapt to the local time and eat accordingly. Also, exposure to sunlight during the day is helpful. The sooner you adapt to the local schedule, the quicker your body will adjust. Therefore, if you arrive at noon local time (but it’s 6 a.m. your time), eat lunch, not breakfast.

During the day, expose yourself to sunlight. The sunlight will cue your hypothalamus to reduce the production of sleep-inducing melatonin during the day, thereby initiating the process of resetting your internal clock.<

Try to stay up until the destination time zone’s bedtime! Try not to nap.

Good Morning

Force yourself up at your normal wake-up time in the new time zone. Expose yourself to light and do some exercises which will help alleviate any continuing jet lag.

Bon Voyage!