Jet lag is a common condition that affects frequent air travelers. The condition is sometimes referred to as desynchronosis, and just as the name suggests, makes it hard for the affected person to adjust to their external environment after air travel. Some of the symptoms that characterize jet lag include erratic sleeping patterns, extreme fatigue levels during the day, loss of concentration and even poor appetite in the days after travelling. But what exactly causes jet lag?
Jet lag occurs whenever you travel across two or more time zones very quickly, as is the case with air travel. The more time zones crossed, the more likely the symptoms will be more intense, and the longer the period of recovery. In fact, it has been shown that the body takes up to day to fully recover from jet lag for each different time zone crossed. Research shows that this happens because quick travel throws the body’s internal clock into disarray.
This clock, also known as the circadian rhythm, helps regulate wakefulness and sleepiness. Add to this external cues such as exposure to daylight, meal times and connecting with others socially and it is easy to see why jet lag disrupts one’s daily routines after travelling. This disruption is what gives jet lag the name desynchronosis because it causes the internal clock to get off sync with the external time.
Below are some of the simple home remedies to use to help ease the symptoms of jet lag and bring the circadian rhythm in sync. Remember, however, that the intensity of the symptoms varies from one person to another, so this may affect the number of days it takes to recover.
1. Steer Clear of the Sleeping Pills:
One of the easiest things to do when dealing with sleep deprivation as a result of jet lag is to pop a few sleeping pills and get knocked out to get some sleep. While this may work temporarily, it is not recommended as it does not help induce a natural state of sleep. While you will fall asleep, sleeping pills do not address the remainder of the condition’s symptoms. These include grogginess, fatigue and the inability to get a good night’s rest. There is also the risk associated with taking sleeping pills on board, which makes them something frequent fliers need to steer clear of.
The good news is that in place of the sleeping pills, there are a number of natural remedies that may be used to induce natural sleep through the night. These include valerian tea, warm milk, and tart cherry juice. Below are the simple ways to prepare each of the remedies to help you get some well-deserved rest the natural way.
I. Valerian Herb:
Time Required: 30 Min
What You Need: 1/2 Tablespoon of dried valerian root, strainer and 2 cups of water.
Valerian is a herb whose active ingredients have been harnessed and used as a sedative and natural sleeping aid. These ingredients increase GABA production in the body, resulting in a calming effect which wards off the anxiety brought about by jet lag. You may use the remedy in two ways: preparing valerian herbal tea or talking the capsule form of the herb. Below are the directions for the tea preparation.
- Place the dried Valerian root in a pan and pour 2 cups of water over the herb.
- Boil the mixture until you have about half the amount of the original water.
- Let the tea steep for 5 more minutes.
- Strain the mixture and allow to cool for a few minutes.
- You may add some honey to sweeten the tea.
- Enjoy this cup of tea at least once daily (preferably just before bedtime) until you have recovered from the symptoms of jet lag.
II. Tart Cherry Juice:
Time Required: 10 Min
What You Need: 1 Cup of tart cherry juice.
Cherry juice is an excellent alternative to sleeping pills, and is in fact recommended as one of the best natural home remedies for sleep. Tart cherry juice is packed with tryptophan, one of the body’s most important ingredients in optimal sleep cycles. This is because tyrptophan is converted to serotonin, which is in turn converted to melatonin. To understand how tart cherry juice is helpful for the management of jet lag, it is important to know what melatonin does in the body. Melatonin is produced by the pineal gland, and its main function is to regulate sleep. Research shows that melatonin induces drowsiness and works with the body to sync the internal clock and reverse the effects of jet lag.
- Enjoy a glass of tart cherry juice at least once daily until you are able to get over the jet lag.
III. Warm Milk:
Time Required: 5 Min
What You Need: 1 Cup of Milk.
Enjoy a cup of warm milk every day before bedtime. It is thought that the warmth of the milk has a soothing and relaxed effect on the body. It helps to make this a routine because it lets the body know that the time to relax and fall asleep is night.
- Add 1 Cup of milk into a small pot on medium-high heat.
- Heat the milk, stirring, until just under boiling.
- Remove from heat, cover, and let stand for about 2 minute before drinking.
2. Adjust Wake and Sleep Times:
This is one of the most important ways to manage jet lag. As mentioned above, jet lag interferes with the circadian rhythm, which in turn affects sleeping patterns. To help minimize the symptoms of the condition, adjust your sleep and wake time to the destination time a few days ahead of the travel dates.
As a general guide, this involves waking up and sleeping an hour earlier or later (this is dependent on what direction you are travelling- whether to the west or the east) If you are travelling to the west, make plans to sleep an hour later, and wake up an hour later than normal. The reverse is true for those travelling eastwards; simply get up an hour earlier and sleep an hour earlier progressively for a couple of days.
Sometimes this is not possible for travelers. In this case, one of the remedies that has been found to ease the symptoms is adjusting one’s watch to the destination time zone a day before travelling. This means that you will do all the activities that pertain to the different times as though you were already in your destination. It involves mealtimes according to your now-adjusted watch, work routines, social engagement and sleeping. In line with this, it is recommended that naps are limited to not more than an hour. Very long naps upset the body’s internal clock and aggravate the symptoms of jet lag.
3. Avoid Alcohol:
This is a profound, but often overlooked remedy for managing jet lag. In as much as your travelling may involve lots of partying and good times, you will do your body good by avoiding alcohol at all costs possible. Even a casual bottle of beer may intensify the condition’s symptoms.
Add to this that alcoholic drinks cause severe dehydration, and it is easy to see the ripple effect when your body is dealing with jet lag. Studies also show that high altitude compounds the effects of alcohol on the body. This translates to disrupted sleep patterns, mood changes and overall body grogginess. In place of the alcohol, take enough water to stay hydrated all through your travel and even in the days after.
4. Avoid Caffeinated Drinks:
When dealing with jet lag, the last thing you want to do is take lots of caffeinated drinks. Popular entities in this category include tea, coffee and a number of carbonated drinks. The essence of avoiding these drinks is because caffeine is a diuretic. Diuretic substances increase urine production in the body, which in turn leads to dehydration. Dehydration is an enemy when it comes to flights across different time zones.
Instead of tea and coffee, take water or herbal teas and avoid these stimulant beverages. Often, frequent fliers cringe at the thought of numerous toilet trips, but drinking lots of water and many trips to the little room will do your body well. These not only ensure you are well hydrated, walking up and down the aisle encourages blood flow. It is common knowledge that sitting for a prolonged period of time on long haul flights contributes to jet lag symptoms. So, simply sip your water and get moving to help manage jet lag.
5. Use Sunlight:
It is recommended to use sunlight to help reset the body’s internal clock. The basis for this is that natural light has an immense effect on the sleep-wake cycle. In line with this, you need to plan the best moments for light exposure depending on the time of arrival at your destination. Another important factor to keep in mind is that the kind of light you expose yourself to is largely dependent in whether you are travelling eastwards or westwards.
As a general guide, exposure to the morning sun helps adjust if you are travelling eastwards where your destination has an earlier time zone. The glow of the evening sun on the other hand, is helpful when travelling westwards where there’s a later time zone. Combine this natural remedy with light outdoor exercises such as nature walks or jogging to help reduce the symptoms of jet lag. For some, the use of sunglasses in the evening helps to block natural light and assists the body stay in tune.
6. The Argonne Diet:
One of the most recent advancements made in the management of jet lag is a diet known as the Argonne diet (the anti-jet lag diet). The diet was developed by Dr. Charles F. Ehret, a senior scientist based at the Argonne National Laboratory. According to Dr. Ehret, diet plays a key role in resetting the body’s internal clock. Developed after years of research on test animals, the diet has been shown to be effective in a number of jet lagged persons. This diet is a combination of sized portions of meals, light exposure and social factors. The basic plan involves alternating fasting and feasting, culminating in a high protein breakfast. Follow the directions below to use the Agronne diet to manage jet lag.
- The first step is to establish when your breakfast time at the destination will be. This ought to take into account the time required for the layover.
- Start the diet at least four days prior to the day of arrival. During this period of time, limit your caffeine intake, but have all your meals at the regular time. According to Dr. Ehret, the first day is known as the feast day. Make sure you have a high-protein breakfast to start the day on the right note. Some breakfast ideas include baked beans, peas, meats, cheese, eggs and cereal that is rich in protein. At night, alternate the high-protein portions for high-carbohydrate portions for dinner. These include potatoes, rice, corn meal, whole grain bread, pasta and pancakes among others. Limit your protein intake at dinner on the first day.
- The second day is a modified fast which essentially means you will keep carbohydrates, fats and calories to a minimum. In place of the regular meals, indulge in thin soups, fresh fruit and fruit juices as well as healthy salads.
- The third day is a repeat of the meals on the first day.
- On the day of departure, use the guidelines for day 2 to incorporate the fasting of the Argonne diet. Remember to avoid alcoholic drinks on board.
- On arrival at your destination, break the first with a breakfast that is rich in proteins. The purpose of doing this is to ensure that the liver’s levels of glycogen are lowered in a bid to prepare the internal body clock for resetting.
- After the breakfast, it helps to stay active in order to keep awake. Take a good book and read, or go outdoors and indulge in some exercises. It is also important to connect with others as social engagement encourages wakefulness.
As a general guide, high-protein meals are meant to trigger body activity, while high-carbohydrate meals stimulate drowsiness and sleepiness. Follow this diet to help manage
Jet lag is certainly not a walk in the park for frequent fliers, but with early management and proper planning, it is possible to reduce the intensity of the symptoms associated with the condition. Use the practical tips and remedies above for the natural treatment of jet lag. Remember to [consult your doctor if you suffer from any underlying conditions that may make you predisposed to jet lag.