What is jet lag?
Jet lag occurs after long distance flight and the resulting mess in your body clock. Fast travel across several time zones and low concentration of oxygen during the flight are confusing your rhythm. Jet lag makes you feel tired and lacking energy during the day and sleepless at night. It also affects your hunger, digestion, body temperature, blood pressure, bowel habits, urine production and can cause a general feeling of being unwell, muscle soreness, clumsiness and disorientation. Your body simply needs some time to adjust its natural 24 hour clock to a different time zone.
Jet lag can affect anyone, it is more common, however, in people above 60 and those with very regular sleep times.
How to beat jet lag
Even though jet lag does not cause any serious or long-term health problems it is rather annoying. Suffering from jet lag can mean losing precious holiday time through feeling ill or falling asleep. To minimise the effects after the flight there are also some things you can do before the flight:
- When booking the flight try to get a connection that is designed to minimise jet lag, that is: try to fly during daylight.
- Try to change your sleep patterns a few days before you travel. If you are travelling east go to bed a bit earlier than usual, if you are travelling west a bit later.
- Get a day to relax before the flight, don’t overload your schedule!
- Make sure to sleep properly and long enough before the flight, don’t party hard and board the aircraft with a hangover.
- Before you leave have a healthy meal to boost your immune system. Avoid alcohol or starting the day with a greasy fry-up.
There are some things to bear in mind during the flight to beat jet lag:
- As soon as you borded the aircraft set your watch to the time at your destination. Try to eat and sleep accordingly.
- Drink plenty of still water to stay hydrated in the dry air of the plane. Avoid fizzy drinks, including sparkling water, coffee and alcohol.
- Visit the loo frequently! Even though it is awkward having to wake your neighbour to let you pass, it will help you keeping jet lag minimal.
- Get up and walk around often to avoid your joints stiffening. Stretch your muscles.
- Improve your circulation while sitting by swirling your ankles from time to time.
- Rest by taking short naps.
- Try to sleep when it is night at your destination. Avoid sleeping pills, as they dehydrate and can cause circulation problems. Ear plugs and eye shades can help you find some sleep!
- During a stopover have a shower, if possible.
If you followed those tips you should be in a fairly good condition after your flight. The following things will help you get through the first day and ajust to the local rhythm:
- Don’t nap during the day, even if you feel tired. Try to stay awake until it is time to go to bed.
- Avoid heavy meals in the beginning. Eat healthy and keep on drinking plenty of water.
- Spend time outside. The bright daylight will help your body adjust to the new time more quickly.
- Accept that a certain amount of jet lag is inevitable (especially after flying Eastwards, contrary to the movement of the sun). Give your body time to adjust and don’t rush on the first day. Relax and take it slowly.
- If your hotel offers a pool tread water to improve circulation in your legs after the long flight.
- If possible get a massage or spa treatment – after the flight is when you will need it the most!
You can buy special jet-lag kits with essential oils to dab on to your wrists, temples and ankles. Some oils that aid stimulation are grapefruit, cardamom and rosemary, while relaxing ones include lavender and mandarin.
Traditional remedies that are calming are passionflower, camomile, valerian, hops and pulsatilla, which can be bought as teas or as tablets in health shops.
Taking the remedy, Cocculus, twice a day is sometimes recommended as it deals with the effects of sleep deprivation. Arnica is another good jet lag remedy. Contact a homeopathic pharmacist for advice.