I don’t believe in jet lag, so I don’t get it. — Samantha Carlisle, adventure travel writer.
Well, Samantha, that ain’t so for me. I find it sneaks up on me a few days after I have arrived – suddenly I can’t think straight. Is it the onset of early menopause, I wonder? Nope, just my body catching up with my location. It always feels like lost luggage to me. You check yourself onto the plane, but when you get to your destination, some part of you gets left behind and has to find you later at the hotel in order for your brain to function again. That’s my experience.
So wanting to have a Samantha-type experience, I queried other world travelers and researched tips on preventing jet lag.
Marybeth Bond, travel author of A Woman’s World and Gutsy Women offered this suggestion: “On numerous international trips homeopathic “flower pills” have helped minimize jet lag for me, as well as for my children. I take the chewable plant-based “No-Jet-Lag” tablets before and during the flight. They contain Leopard’s Bane, Daisy, and Wild Chamomile as active ingredients. They’re available at local health food stores, travel stores, Trader Joe’s and Book Passage in Corte Madera, CA.”
“I have a special meditation I do that puts me in what I call my “hummingbird at rest mode” — in which all my systems slow way down.” This is contributed by Ricky Rose, a romance writer who travels to Europe frequently in search of romance.
Sasha Taylor, a travel guidebook writer says, “For me, avoiding jet lag requires that most grave of all sacrifices: not drinking alcohol on the plane. If I do load up on those little bottles of gin, when I get off the plane, my feet and ankles are swollen. Then I’m hobbling around like an arthritic gnome trying to see the sights. Drinking lots of water also helps avoid the dehydration that happens during jet travel.”
I don’t follow Sasha’s rule as I like to celebrate the beginning of a trip with a glass of champagne. Only one. Then, on my bubbly high, I gloat at the fact that I am flying into an adventure.
Jet lag is nature’s way of making you look like your passport photo. — Linda Perret
So what causes this inconvenience and discomfort called jet lag? This inconvenient condition occurs when our body’s natural daily (circadian) rhythm becomes disoriented. We have many internal biological “clocks.” The ones that pertain to a 24-hour period are referred as circadian cycles. The most familiar of these cycles is the sleep/awake cycle. Light and darkness (our diurnal cycle) trigger the sleep/awake cycle. Our bodies are accustomed to night descending at a certain time each day. In fact, the hormone Melatonin is produced in the dark while we sleep and fades at daylight; bright light turns off the hormone. This hormone is secreted from the Pineal gland, which is called the timekeeper of the brain, and helps govern the sleep-wake cycle.
Any shift from our regular cycle (i.e. traveling quickly across time zones) requires a resetting of your biological clock, much like turning your watch forward or backward.
It can take as long as one day to adjust for each time zone you cross. It is not the length of your flight that will determine how much jet lag you might experience but how many time zones you have gone through. Jet lag seems to be worse flying eastward. Traveling north to south within the same time zone, on the other hand, produces no adjustment.
USEFUL TRAVEL TIPS:
* Drink quality water before, during. and after your flight. Bring your own water bottle and keep filling it up. It is important to drink at least 8-12 ounces of water every hour. An added bonus of keeping your body well-hydrated is that it helps you stay well. Dry membranes are more susceptible to infection.
* To minimize dehydration of the skin, apply lotion to as much of your body as possible. I cleanse and moisturize my face at least once during long flights. I also use Burt’s Chamomile Complexion Mist every hour. The flowery smell helps me recover from the pervasive stale food smell of in-flight food.
* Use earphones to listen to your choice of music or earplugs to reduce fatigue from cabin noise.
* Use an inflatable neck pillow.
* It is a mandatory to walk and/or perform isometric exercises to increase circulation. I find a place to stand and stretch. At first, I am very self-conscious but it feels so good I do it anyway. I met an 86-year-old woman recently on a flight going to Turkey, who spends a good portion of the flight doing laps around the cabin. At that age, she doesn’t care what the other passengers think about her using the aisles for a track!
* When you’re at the airport, forget those moving sidewalks. Instead, walk to your plane, walk during layovers, walk when your plane is delayed. In addition to helping you adjust to flying stagnation, it also helps time fly. I have discovered many interesting areas in the airport by walking all over the place exploring until my flight leaves. The Dallas airport has a massage business; most airports have a “meditation” or “spiritual” quiet room.
* At your destination, walk barefoot on the ground, if possible, and/or swim in the ocean or soak in an Epsom salt bath. This will help ground your electromagnetic system. Also, as soon as possible, stand in direct sunlight for 10-20 minutes without sunglasses.
* Massaging your head, neck and ears will relieve tension from the changes in cabin pressure.
* If you are flying from the West coast to the East coast, adjust your sleep time before you leave on your trip. For example, if your normal bedtime is midnight, then three nights before you travel go to sleep at 11 P.M. Two days before you travel, retire at 10 P.M. And the night before your trip, go to sleep at 9 P.M. (which is midnight on the East coast).
* On international travel, seasoned passengers either book overnight flights when heading east, so they can sleep most of the flight, or flights that arrive at night, so they can go to bed at their destination. (Take an eye mask to enhance sleep on the plane and at your destination.)
* Researchers have found that certain vitamins are depleted in a plane’s unnatural atmosphere which could be another contributor to jet lag. To counteract this, one book recommends taking vitamin B12 two weeks before and one week after a flight. Still another source suggests doses of time-released vitamin C (1,000 milligrams) starting the day before departure and stopping a day after the return home. In addition, potassium can be drained from the body by lack of activity. Counteract this deficiency by drinking orange juice or eating a banana.
* Protein rich meals stimulate wakefulness and high carbohydrate meals promote sleep. Once you arrive at your destination, drink caffeine beverages to help you stay awake until bedtime and/or to help you wake up in the morning. And, eat high-fiber foods to fight constipation and avoid fatty foods which contribute to your sluggishness.
* I don’t eat anything on a flight. I figure the body is already stressed by a plane’s hostile atmosphere and eating just adds one more thing for it to deal with. Plus, I do not consider what they serve on planes food. OK— if the flight is a long one –over six hours—I bring nutritious snacks. This may include fruit, nuts, cheese, smoked salmon. I focus on foods that are high in protein and fiber, not refined or salty, nor are sugar-laden. An almond butter and banana sandwich on whole wheat bread is not very sexy but it keeps you going and doesn’t give you a food “hangover”.
Please send me your jet lag tips and Bon Voyage!