Travel can be exciting, exhilarating and eye opening. But often with international travel comes jet lag and you don’t want that sneaking in on your trip. With my own travel plans looming on the horizon I’ve been searching for ways to reduce the effects of international exhaustion while keeping health conscious and without succumbing to harmful endeavours. So here are five ways to help save yourself from the exhaustion of jet lag.
1. Adjusting Wake and Sleep Time Prior to Travel- when you find yourself travelling hours east or west it’s important to try to adopt your destination’s time zone prior to your departure. Now, like me, if you’re going eight hours east (which puts you ahead of time) you’re not necessarily going to start waking up at midnight and going to bed that afternoon. But tweaking your body’s clock even just a few hours can make a world of difference. Give yourself three days before travel, on the first day wake up an hour earlier (or later if you’re headed west) and go to bed an hour earlier. On day two increase this to two hours and day three increase to three hours. Even just that small amount will help to get your clock in sync with the time of your destination’s that much quicker.
2. Melatonin- Melatonin is a hormone naturally found in plants and animals. It works directly on your sleep-wake cycle, reducing your body temperature and causing drowsiness. Created in the pineal gland, melatonin has been found to be helpful in regulating the bodily rhythms that become out-of-sync when you travel across several time zones. It’s not a sleeping pill that will magically transport you to the land of nod, rather a natural supplement to aid in adjusting your body’s internal clock. It can be bought at most local health food stores and is even affordable on a traveler’s budget. For the best effect it is to be take at the time you want to go to sleep. So once you’ve reached your destination and it’s bedtime, have a melatonin supplement right before you pack it in and it should have you sleeping easy.
3. Diet- Its true, diet is everything. Your diet is so important as it is what fuels your entire existence. And by making just some small changes to it you can help to lessen the blow of jet lag. You can find on the Internet entire sites dedicated to the jet lag diet, some of which will even charge you for their efforts. But by following a simple regimen such as this you can help your body to react quickly to time zone changes. It’s called a feast and fast cycle, alternating between the two on different days to prepare your body.
• Day One- Feast Day. Eat lots of high protein foods for breakfast (eggs, tofu etc.) these foods promote wakefulness. For dinner, eat foods high in carbohydrates (pasta, grains, etc.) these foods promote the production of melatonin in your body which will help you sleep.
• Day 2- Fast Day. Eat only light meals such as salads and thin soups. These foods help to reduce your liver’s store of glycogen (a muscle fuel) and will help prepare your body to reset its clock.
• Day 3- Feast Day. Follow the same as day 1.
• Day 4- Flight Day (yay!) Sleep as long as possible up until the breakfast time of your destination. Have a heavy protein breakfast but no coffee today. Try to eat the rest of your meals today on your destination’s time zone. And remember to pack some of your own snacks because we all know what airplane food can be like! Bring tea, granola bars, fruit and chocolate. Always bring chocolate.
Although caffeine is permitted during these days, it’s recommended only between 3 p.m. and 5 p.m., the time during the day it should have the least effect on your body. It’s also important to steer clear of alcohol. It only interrupts your circadian cycle and causes dehydration. And having said that, drink lots of water!
4. Exercise- Get as much as you can! I’m not saying get up and do yoga in the aisles of the plane (though I have been tempted to) but go for a quick walk, stand for a while and do as much stretching and twisting as your seat (and neighbour) will permit. Not only does regular exercise promote better sleep but it also will help to combat some of the health issues of flying. Swollen feet and dangerous blood clots can be avoided with even just small amounts of exercise. So get moving!
5. Pre-flight preparation- There’s nothing worse than running around hours before your flight trying to remember everything. Spend the day before getting all of your things in order. Make sure your carry-on bag contains all of your important things and whatever else you’ll need to make it through the flight like some good reading, music and a notebook. This will help reduce needless stressing before your travel day and help with that last night of sleep that so important in resetting your body’s clock. Get lots of exercise before your flight. We all know regular exercise is an important part of staying healthy, but it too can reduce stress and make sure you’re at your best when you reach your destination.
These simple tricks will help lessen the blow of jet lag without having you popping sleeping pills. Sweet dreams and happy travels!