Whether you are an avid wanderluster or you travel just a couple of times a year, jet lag can make you feel like you have stepped onto another planet rather than just another time zone. But then again, there are those who just seems to breeze through it all.
Are these people plain lucky or do they have any tricks up their sleeves to prevent the jet lag?
Understanding Jet Lag
When we travel through different time zones, we may experience many undesirable symptoms. While some people may get away with mild symptoms like drowsiness, others may feel like they were hit by a bus as they got off the plane.
How bad the jet lag symptoms can get depend on how long the flight is and, more importantly, which direction the plane is flying. When we travel east from Canada to Australia, the timezone in australia is several hours ahead of Canada. ‘Losing’ these hours make the jet lag worse. However, when you travel west from Canada, the symptoms tend to be milder because you “gain” hours. This is less taxing on your body, though the time zone shift still creates some ripples. Traveling from north to south doesn’t usually create much jet lag issues because only 1 to 2 time zone changes are crossed.
Losing or gaining these hours confuses our body’s natural clock, called the circadian rhythm. Our natural sleep wake cycles are affected by many factors around us, especially the temperature and daylight. When the circadian rhythm, which regulates several functions in our body, gets disrupted, its not just sleeping habits that go haywire, it affects our appetite, digestion, energy levels, and much more. `
Some of the more common symptoms of jet lag are:
- Loss of appetite and digestive symptoms such as constipation, diarrhea, bloating, acid reflux.
- Irritability, anxiety, insomnia
- Brain fog, confusion, dizziness, inability to focus
- Fluctuations in body temperature
- Irregular periods for women
The symptoms of jet lag can last for anytime between just a day to upto even a week. As explained earlier the further you travel east, the more severe and longer the jet lag symptoms get. Studies have linked chronic jet lag to long-term cognitive impairment and elevated cortisol levels.
An understanding of how disabling jet lag can get and its long term consequences, makes it clear that priority must be given to preventing or at least reducing the jet lag as much as possible. Jet lag can be prevented by implementing certain remedial measures.
Here are 7 natural ways to beat jet lag symptoms even before they appear:
1. Adaptogenic Herbs: Korean Red Ginseng
Adaptogens are a unique group of herbal ingredients that work with a person’s body and help them adapt; most notably, to stress and fatigue. They strengthen our immune system and enhance our body’s ability to cope with anxiety. They are called adaptogens because they have an amazing ability to adapt to our body’s specific needs. Though the effects of adaptogens are not instant or strongly felt, they are real and undeniable.
The granddaddy of all adaptogenic herbs is Korean red ginseng which is also known as panax red ginseng. Just like a thermostat that brings temperature up or down in a room as needed, adaptogens like Korean red ginseng can can boost your energy levels without over stimulating and calm you down at the same time. They counteract the adverse effects of stress by supporting adrenal functions.
Ginseng helps the body’s cells to access more energy and eliminate toxic byproducts of the metabolic process. It helps the body utilize oxygen more efficiently. This is one herb that has been proven to protect against travel stress. Jet lag is a form of stress our body experiences. Taking an adaptogenic supplement that can protect you from stress goes in a long way in reducing jet lag or even preventing it in the first place.
2. Drink Plenty of Water to Stay Hydrated
A plane ride can be a very dehydrating experience as the air conditioning inside it is very drying. On top of this, if you don’t drink adequate water, you will get dehydrated anyway. Dehydration makes jet lag symptoms more pronounced.
Dehydration affects cognitive function, impairs digestion, creates headache and fatigue. So it’s very important to stay hydrated. Drink plenty of water before, during, and after the flight. Its best to avoid alcohol and coffee during the flight as these are dehydrating beverages.
3. Get Adequate Rest Before The Trip
The day or night before a journey can be jam packed with activities. We try to cram in all our last minute errands and the final packing can extend late into the night. Since fatigue is one of the main symptoms of jetlag, taking adequate rest before the journey is quite important.
Try to add a few extra hours of sleep, but if that’s not possible, then at least try to improve the quality of your sleep. Avoid drinking stimulating beverage like coffee around your bedtime. If possible, turn off all the electronic gadgets including your mobile phone so that you can get some sound sleep. Yeah, but don’t forget to set the alarm if it’s an early morning flight.
4. Adjust Sleep Routine a Week Before
Depending on the direction you are planning to travel, try to adjust your sleep routine but shifting it a couple of hours this side or that. While it may not be realistic to match up to the exact time zone schedule, slight modifications can help you adapt more easily.
If you are travelling east and losing hours, then go to bed as early as possible. If you are traveling west and gaining hours, then plan your sleep an hour or two later. Stay up and watch some good netflix movies.
Sleep more during the flight if you are going to losing more than few hours from your body clock. You will need that rest before you get off the plane. Remember to wear a sleep mask as this can help you sleep better. Avoid energy drinks and refined sugar as they may prevent you from relaxing and falling asleep.
5. Have a Well-balanced Meal after Landing
Since digestion is affected by jet lag, it is important to eat meals that can be easily digested. A good balance of nutrients is also vital at this phase. You can add ginseng powder in the food you are going to eat. Vitamins, especially the B-vitamins are helpful in combating jet lag symptoms. Bananas are a great option as they contain high levels of vitamin B6 and B12, as well as magnesium and potassium. They also contain fiber and protein.
The common tendency is to eat plenty of junk food while we are on a journey. This is a main factor that worsens jet lag symptoms, especially bloating and acid reflux. Meals high in carbohydrates are not advisable as they spike the insulin levels too high and then lead to an energy crash later on. If you are experiencing mild jet lag symptoms only, then the carbohydrate-rich meal ends up magnifying those symptoms, especially the fatigue. Eat plenty of fruits and vegetables and adequate amounts of protein.
When you get off the plane at 3 pm in the afternoon, your body clock may tell you it’s 11 pm and time to sleep. It’s fine to go take rest at your hotel, but avoid closing the curtains in your room to make it dark. Allow the light to shine through so that your circadian rhythm can slowly adjust to the new environment and its time zone to reset your sleep schedule. Meditation is also an effective jet lag remedy. You can simply close your eyes and focus on your breathing to overcome the anxiety and insomnia, if you are experiencing any.
If it’s a long journey into a totally different time zone, some jet lag is bound to be there. But with proper precautions we can reduce or event prevent the disabling symptoms of jet lag that will otherwise ruin our entire vacation at the new destination.
So stock up on your panax red ginseng supplements, rest adequately before your journey, drink plenty of water, and stay hydrated during your trip. Eat a nutritious meal after landing and go enjoy your vacation.