How To Beat
What is jet lag? It’s not just the mind numbing exhaustion
and dehydration you can feel after a long haul flight. They are a part of it,
but essentially can be cured with sleep and water.
Jet lag is the result of crossing multiple time zones,
usually on a long international flight, and completely disrupts your circadian
rhythm – the internal clock that rules your daily eating and sleeping patterns.
Sometimes you feel it shortly after landing at your new
destination, other times it creeps up on you, striking without warning, leaving
you dizzy, irritable, red eyed. It can make your heart pound without reason,
has you waking in the dead of night, makes you feel like you are in a fog.
Symptoms include nausea, visual disturbances, stress, exhaustion and insomnia,
and for chronic migraine sufferers (like me) it can trigger brain bending
Plus it leaves you looking like hell.
They say it is worse when flying from west to east, because
the body finds it harder to adapt to a shorter day. For me for some reason the
flight home to America, whether from Europe or from Australia, kicks me the
hardest. Maybe the sadness of my trip ending is the bigger factor?
Anyway, after a lifetime of traveling round and round the
world, both for work and for play, for the most part I have a pretty effective
road map for how to beat jet lag.
Once in a while it still catches me, but in general I follow
these 10 rules to avoid jet lag – I don’t ever want to miss a minute of my trip
due to it.
1. Get Extra Sleep Before You
The worst thing you can do is get on the plane already
tired. I try to get some extra hours in in the days prior to departing, if at
all possible. The times I really suffer are when I’ve worked right up to the
last minute or had a frantic final few days before leaving.
If I have time I do extra yoga in the days leading up to the
flight, which helps enormously. I also make sure I stay alcohol free that week
and make super smart food choices. Every little thing helps.
2. Plan Your Airport Strategy
I arrive early to minimize any airport
stress, and where possible go to the airline’s club lounge. The chairs are more
comfortable, the vibe is very peaceful as opposed to the plastic chairs and
mayhem at the gate. Other people’s frantic and distorted energy can leech over
onto you, affecting you more than you realize, so being in a chill environment can be a huge advantage.
I am also super careful about what I eat
(bring healthy snacks rather than buying unhealthy, salt and sugar laden, high
carb airport food) and I drink tons of water. Avoid alcohol and caffeine like
the plague. They are both major dehydrators and can really mess with your
chances of sleeping during the flight.
3. Change Your Watch To The
Final Time Zone When You Board Your Flight
The sooner you can start tricking
your body into behaving on the new time zone the better. It’s much harder when
flying through the day to trick your body into believing it’s night, but the
more you can do the better.
If you can start rewiring your
brain in the days leading up to your flight it gets even easier. Go to bed
slightly later if you are flying west or
earlier if you are flying east. (I invariably work until the day before I
leave, and have a child to get up and ready for school in the mornings, so this
tactic is never an option for me.)
4. Drink Tons Of Water During
On top of the 8 glasses of water you need
each day for basic health, you lose approximately one glass of water for every
hour you are in flight, so drinking extra water is essential.
I normally buy a couple of bottles of water
to take onboard with me. Flight attendants are generally too busy to bring you
Dixie cups of water every 5 minutes, so I make sure I have ample with me. The
more you hydrate (with water!) during the flight the easier the recovery is at
Again avoid alcohol like the plague. It is
the super dehydrator, and even more so when flying. I avoid it for the first 24
hours after landing too.
Also be super cognizant of your food
choices on during the flight. It’s easy to eat out of boredom instead of hunger
on long flights. If possible pack sliced up fresh fruits and vegetables, raw
nuts and healthy foods to eat during your flight instead of the carb rich
5. Sleep During The Flight
Bring ear plugs and an eye mask, get comfy
and make yourself sleep as best as possible.
When You Land
Drink more water!
I load up on EmergenC and B vitamins, and drink tons of water.
Hydration is the great equalizer.
When I get to my new destination I try to get a good
long walk in as quickly as possible. It gets the blood pumping again after
you’ve been sitting for hours, and helps get the oxygen flowing. It’s not
unusual to get swelling in the feet, ankles and legs from fluids pooling while
you sit on the flight, so a big walk helps enormously. Apparently in can help
ward off Deep Vein Thrombosis too.
If you arrive during the daytime utilize
the sunlight to help your body adjust to the new time zone. Sometimes you just
want to go to bed, but that is about the worst thing you can do.
Stay up until it’s bedtime at your
location. If you have at least 7 hours before bedtime local time, grab a coffee
or an espresso.
9. Use A Sleep Aid
If its bedtime and you’re wide awake use a
sleep aid. Melatonin works for plenty of people, but unfortunately not for me.
Even though drugs like Ambien don’t give you a proper sleep (or so I’m told),
an Ambien night will leave you far more rested and equipped to handle the new
day than lying in bed wide awake and feeling off kilter will.
Plan An Easy First Day
If possible plan an easy day for your first
day. A heavy duty sightseeing day after a night of limited or disturbed sleep,
or on the back of some heavy duty jet lag is pure hell. Ease your way into the
trip and you will enjoy the entire experience much more!
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