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Jet Lag Remedies

How to Avoid Jet Lag on Your Trip

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Jet lag

Cheap flights to Asia can occasionally be found.

Photo by Greg Rodgers

Desynchronosis, better known as jet lag, is pretty much guaranteed after crawling off the long flight to Asia. Although many breakthroughs have been made, no jet lag remedies on the market are a quick fix for the chronobiological ailment; what your body needs is time to readjust.

With bodies designed for walking, or perhaps riding a horse, humans were never meant to travel as quickly as modern flight allows. The chemical clock in our bodies that tells us when to eat and when to sleep can go haywire for the first week after a long flight. Unfortunately, jet lag can make getting adjusted to an unfamiliar place that much more difficult when you first get off the plane.

Read on to learn some natural jet lag remedies and how to lessen the impact so that you can enjoy your trip more quickly!

What Exactly is Jet Lag?

Crossing three or more time zones can wreck havoc on biological patterns and circadian rhythms. Melatonin, which is produced naturally in the body during darkness, causes us to feel drowsy when there is a lack of light. Until melatonin levels are regulated and become adjusted to your new time zone, your chemical clock that suggests when to sleep will not be in sync with your new location.

Symptoms of Jet Lag

Travelers experiencing severe jet lag may feel lethargic during the afternoon, wide awake at night, and hungry during odd times. Headaches, irritability, and a lack of daytime focus make the culture shock of a new place take that much more of a toll.

Jet lag doesn't only affect sleep; hunger strikes at odd times as your digestive system fires up based on your old time zone's schedule. Meals eaten at regular times are less enjoyable and can even be harder to digest.

As our bodies often perform internal maintenance while we sleep, jet lag can actually weaken immune systems, making those germs encountered on public transportation even more of a problem.

Some common indicators of jet lag are:

  • Insomnia
  • Daytime drowsiness
  • Waking up too early
  • Lack of appetite
  • Lack of focus and mild depression
  • Headaches and irritability

See a full list of jet lag symptoms.

Natural Jet Lag Remedies

While there are not any magic jet lag remedies, you can take some steps upon arrival and on the flight to lessen the recovery time required.

  • Use Discipline: Time to throw out the old adage of "listen to your body." The most effective jet lag remedy is to force your body into its new routine. Avoid the temptation to lay down in the middle of the afternoon; instead, wait until proper time to sleep at night. Although easier said than done in Asia, don't snack at odd times even though you feel hungry. Eat meals at set times regardless of whether or not you are hungry.
  • Get Lots of Sunlight: Your melatonin cycles -- and ultimately your internal clock -- are dictated by the amounts of sunlight coming into your eyes. Although you will certainly be tired after the long flight, your first day on the ground is not a good day to spend lounging around the hotel. Get outdoors, stay physically active during the day, and see some sites.
  • Avoid Caffeine: With your body's clock already in turmoil, adding a stimulant is only going to confuse things that much more. Despite needing a boost to keep going the first afternoon in your destination, avoid drinking caffeine after midday until you get readjusted.
  • Start on the Plane: You can begin your jet lag prevention before you even get off the plane. Set your watch to the time in your future destination, then do your best to sleep and eat based on the new timezone rather than the old. Get up, move around the plane to avoid lethargy, and avoid just snoozing through the entire flight.

Extreme Jet Lag Remedies

One study by the British Journal of Sports Medicine proved that a 0.5 mg dose of melatonin -- available for purchase as a nutritional supplement -- taken on the first day of your trip can help alleviate jet lag if proper amounts of sunlight are absorbed. The FDA does not recommend melatonin as a jet lag remedy.

A study conducted by Harvard Medical School showed that fasting for at least 16 hours before your arrival can help to override the body's natural clock. Fasting triggers an innate survival response that makes finding food more a priority than following circadian rhythms.

Read about how the prescription drug Viagra can relieve symptoms of jet lag.

How Long Does it Take to Get Over Jet Lag?

Depending on age, physical fitness, and genetics, jet lag affects people differently. Studies show that you should allow one full day to recover from jet lag for every time zone traveled either east or west.

The US Centers for Disease Prevention and Control states that the direction traveled makes a difference in how long that jet lag persists. If traveling west, divide the number of time zones crossed by two to determine how many days jet lag can be expected to last. When traveling east, expect a recovery time of roughly two-thirds the number of time zones crossed.

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