We live in a world of frequent travel. Jet lag is a condition that can occur when you travel by airplane across time zones. The medical term for jet lag is known as “desynchronosis”. Simply put, jet lag affects the internal body clock. Many people are affected by jet lag when they travel. It can put a damper on their travel plans and even affect their physical health. There are several things you can do to help lessen the symptoms of jet lag.
Cause of Jet Lag: The cause is due to crossing time zones. We have 24 time zones throughout the world. In the US we are divided into four zones; eastern, central, mountain and pacific. When traveling, your body has a hard time adjusting to the new time zone. You will adjust but it is a process. For example, if you are traveling from New York to California your body still believes it is in the New York time zone. This adjustment struggle is what creates the symptoms associated with jet lag.
To understand more clearly you need to know how the body clock works. Humans operate on a 24 hour cycle. This is known as a “circadian rhythm.” The hypothalamus which is found in the brain is an internal clock. It regulates many functions including determining the time of day. This is done in conjunction with the visual perception of the eye. The cues are affected and the result is jet lag.
Symptoms of Jet Lag: The clear cut symptoms of jet lag are fatigue and insomnia. Lesser known symptoms may include; dizziness, nausea, constipation, irregular heartbeat and headaches.
Recommendations: Avoid caffeine and alcoholic beverages. Before flying you should stay away from these stimulating types of products. Alcohol can cause you to feel dehydrated which can intensify jet lag in some people. Healthy Eating: Avoid overeating a few days before flying. You should eat well and give your body the nutrients it needs to be nourished and energetic. Eating lightly the day of your flight is also helpful. Avoid too much fat or carbohydrates the night before traveling because that can affect your sleep. Continue to do so for a few days after your flight to ensure you get the best sleep possible.
After Travel: Sleep: You need to get enough restful sleep after traveling. There are many things you can do. Ease your way into sleep by taking a warm bath. This helps your body to relax and make you feel sleepy. Sleeping aids such as eye masks or ear plugs can be helpful. Minimize distractions and keep your room as dark and quiet as possible to induce sleep. If it becomes more serious and you cannot seem to sleep, you should consult with your medical practitioner, particularly if you are a frequent traveler. He or she may prescribe a sleeping aid medication. There are also trained “sleep specialists” who can assist with jet lag symptoms.
Change your schedule in advance: The adjustment rate to feeling normal again is usually one day per time zone. Let’s say you will be crossing many times zones, for example, a trip from New York to London. You can begin a small adjustment before you leave for your trip by trying to set your daily schedule back one hour a week or so before travelling. This will reduce the shock and intensity of jet lag that some people experience.
Jet lag is a common and often unpleasant effect of travel. With proper planning you can help reduce the negative effects and be able to have a more positive travel experience. Whenever undertaking any dietary or lifestyle changes, always consult with your medical practitioner, especially if you have a disease or are taking prescription medication.