You finally arrive at your destination after a long flight. You claim your baggage, settle down in your hotel room and decide to hit the pillow after many hours of traveling, only to find yourself tossing and turning at 4 in the morning and with dark circles under your eyes the morning after.
Jet lag is a condition that occurs when people travel through different time zones. If you keep your watch with the old local time of the place you just left you may easily understand why you were tossing and turning at four AM in the morning. Your body of course does not realize the dynamics behind different time zones and it reacts as if you were still where you were prior to traveling. While it is 4 AM in the morning, therefore, your body and mind may still believe that it is 8 PM. As upsetting as it can be however, there is good news. Seasoned travelers have learned strategies to easily overcome jet lag or at least considerably reduce it.
Keeping in top shape the days prior to your travel date may help boost your immunity and make you stronger fro the trip. Of course, do not improvvise an exercise regimen suddenly or you will get muscle aches and soreness for days!
-West versus East Travel
According to Reid KJ, Chang AM, Zee PC in the book -Circadian rhythm sleep disorders: ”Eastward travel is associated with difficulty in falling asleep at the new bed-time and difficulty arising in the morning, while westward travel is associated with early evening sleepiness and predawn awakening”
-The power of Melatonin
Melatonin is a natural hormone that is actually secreted by the pineal gland during the night,whereas during the day its production is suppressed. When traveling towards different time zones therefore, the production and suppression of this hormone is disturbed. This is because the body still acts as if still on the schedule of the place of origin.
The supplementation of *Melatonin may therefore help those that are planning to travel through some time zones. However, there are controversial studies on its actual effectiveness. According to CDC:
” Although no results from rigorous studies of safety or dosage of melatonin are available, limited evidence suggests melatonin is safe and well tolerated, and doses of 0.5-5 mg may promote sleep and decrease jet lag symptoms in travelers crossing five or more time zones (6,7). Melatonin should be taken at the desired bedtime, beginning 3-4 days before departure if possible. Although melatonin is generally considered safe, adverse effects such as sedation or a disorienting rocking feeling have been reported. The safe use of melatonin in persons with epilepsy, who take warfarin or other oral anticoagulants and in children has been questioned (6). These travelers should discuss the potential for adverse effects with their physicians prior to its use.
You want to steer clear from alcohol the night prior to travel and during the flight. Alcohol will dehydrate you
Caffeine may as well create disturbances in the sleep/wake cycle. Try drinking lots of fluids on your flight instead.
-Avoid Sleeping Pills
Sleeping pills are a big no for long haul flights because they induce you stay immobile for many hours of heavy sleep. This put people more at risk for deep vein thrombosis, a potentially fatal disorder due to a blood clot that forms in the legs an then travels to the lungs.
-Adjust right away
It is important to respect the new times of the new destination. Eat for lunch and dinner and sleep when it gets dark. Sleeping when you are tired or eating when you are hungry will only prolong your difficulties in adjusting to the new time zone. This is the most important tip of all, an often the one most challenging to follow.
Typically, it takes the body an average of 1-12 days to adjust to the new time zone. This range varies, depending on the number of timezones that have been crossed. For instance, passing only one time zone should only produce one day of jet lag and so forth. However, everybody is different and make not abide to this general rule.
Following the above tips may significantly reduce the time-lines above by better preparing you for your business or leisure trip. Nothing is more frustrating than attending an important conference with your eyes shutting from being tired or missing that so anticipated tour because of feeling too awkward.
*if you are considering taking Melatonin always consult with your physician first. Medications may interact with Melatonin and Melatonin may cause allergic reactions as any other nutritional supplements.
Reid KJ, Chang AM, Zee PC. Circadian rhythm sleep disorders. Med Clin North Am. 2004;88:631-51.
CDC Chapter 6 Non-infectious risks during travel Retrieved from:http://wwwn.cdc.gov/travel/yellowbook/ch6/jet-lag.aspx