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Jet Lag

Causes
Tips
 


Causes

Flying across time zones means the sun comes up sooner or later than your body is used to. This difference causes a disruption of your body’s natural clock, often called the circadian pacemaker, a cluster of neurons in the pineal gland. It runs on a 24-hour cycle and regulates feelings of hunger and tiredness, among others. Disruption of this cycle caused by air travel is called jet lag.

As with many of your body’s natural processes any interruption can weaken your immune system, opening you to infections you would normally be able to fight off. Other effects are drowsiness, irritability, depression, and difficulty concentrating.

Flying for long distances, especially through several time zones, is very stressing to the body. The plane's environment will probably be lower in oxygen than the regular atmosphere and also quite dry, which may cause your sinuses to dry out and your body to become dehydrated. Those travelers who drink caffeinated or alcoholic beverages will worsen the dehydration problem. In addition, radiation will cause free radical activity.

Quite possibly because the level of the hormone melatonin decreases with age, people over the age of 50 are more susceptible to jet lag.

Tips

  • Before taking your trip, load up on antioxidant vitamins A, C, E, and the mineral selenium. This will help protect you against free radical damage caused by radiation during the flight.
  • Take an anti-stress high-potency B-complex vitamin with 1,000 mg of time-release vitamin C.
  • Drink plenty of water both before and during your flight to keep hydrated.
  • Avoid caffeine and alcohol as they will make you dehydrated.
  • To help ward off illness from the dry airplane air, keep your sinuses moist by using a nasal spray intended for this purpose. We do not recommend OTC products used to open sinuses when you have allergies or a cold, but ones that keep them moist. Air in the plane will contain contaminants from other passengers that you will likely pick up if your sinuses are dry. Keeping your sinuses moist will help prevent this from happening.
  • You can use synthetic melatonin, the sleep-producing hormone, to sleep on long flights. This is not suggested for short flights, as it will really throw your sleep patterns off! If you are traveling across time zones, take up to 8 mg of melatonin at bedtime at your destination to help re-set your body’s clock. Melatonin is manufactured in the brain during periods of darkness to promote sleep. Usage for four days after arriving makes you less sleepy, more efficient at work, and less moody. Melatonin helps re-set your body clock and facilitates deep and restful sleep. For best results, take 30 minutes before bedtime. Do not take if you are driving, operating machinery, or before work.
  • If you land during the day, get some sunlight. This will inhibit your body’s production of melatonin and help you adjust to the new time zone and get over jet lag.
  • Adjust your sleep routine to the new time zone before you leave home. Or, upon arrival, don’t take a nap but wait until the time you normally go to bed. This will help your body readjust its internal clock.
  • Try to schedule your arrival for 9 PM so you can get a rejuvenating night´s sleep.
  • A high carbohydrate meal will make it easier to sleep either on the plane or at your destination. However, if you need to be alert, eat a high protein diet.
  • If you need to be alert during or after the flight, eat a high protein diet and have a low-carbohydrate breakfast either at home or on the plane.
  • Avoid high-fat foods before and during your flight, because digestion isn’t as efficient when you’re sitting in a chair for 6-10 hours.
  • Upon landing, take a warm Epsom salts bath.

See our articles on Travel Tips and What Should Be in Your Natural Travel Kit

 

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