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Why We Have Jet Lag And How To Deal With It

Why We Have Jet Lag And How To Deal With It

“I think a major element of jetlag is psychological. Nobody ever tells me what time it is at home.” – David Attenborough

You fly across a few time zones, adjust your watch accordingly, and you expect your own internal body clock to do the same. A quick flick of a switch, or a magic pill, and – hey, presto! – we are ready to explore our new destination. We can eat, sleep and get up just like everybody else there. Wishful thinking!

As we all know, our body clocks are not so easily fixed, and sometimes it take days to adjust to the new light/dark rhythms. As a result, we suffer from the dreaded jet lag and feel wretched for the first few days of our holiday or business trip. For example, with a west to east flight from San Francisco to Rome it may take you up to six days to get over the jet lag.

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The reason is that there seem to be ‘molecular brakes,’ which prevent your internal clock from adjusting rapidly to the new dark/light cycle (aka your circadian rhythms). Mice can do this very quickly but humans cannot. Researchers are looking at ways that we could apply these molecular brakes to our body clocks. Once that is discovered, we should be able to face a long-haul flight with confidence and relax.

These advances in science will help treat many mental illnesses that are caused by internal clocks not working properly. Schizophrenia and seasonal affective disorder (SAD) are two that spring to mind.

Fortunately for us, there are several things we can do to reduce the effects of jet lag. Here are six practical ways to deal with it.

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1. Plan ahead

When booking a long-haul flight, choose your departure time carefully if you are given a choice. Opting for an overnight flight means that you can sleep more easily and your arrival time in the afternoon or morning will make it easier for your body clock to adjust.

Another good idea is to save up your frequent flier miles and book first class. The extra comfort of fully reclining seats will help you sleep better.

2. Go to bed earlier or later before you leave

Heading east? Start going to bed just half an hour or an hour earlier for four or more nights before you leave. You are helping your body clock to get used to the new time zone before leaving. If you are heading west, try going to bed later and later.

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3. Adjust your watch when you leave

Most airlines tell you to change your watch when you arrive. A helpful suggestion is to actually do that when you leave. In this way, you are making mental adjustments and thinking about what is happening at your destination and what the routine will be when you arrive.

4. Don’t forget to drink plenty of water during the flight

Because the cabin is pressurized, the humidity levels are very low. As our bodies are mostly made of water, dehydration in this atmosphere is a risk. The solution is to drink plenty of water before, during and after the flight. Avoid tea, coffee and alcohol as they are diuretics and will only worsen dehydration, which can leave you feeling weak, nauseous, shaky and confused. Now you know why pilots have to drink so much water!

Don’t forget to get as much movement as you can during the flight. I know there is not much room, but an aisle seat can really help here as you can stretch your legs and go for a little walk without disturbing anyone.

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5. Meds may help

Consider taking a sleeping aid if you are comfortable with it and if you normally take one. Anecdotal evidence suggests that when you are eastbound, it helps you to feel more alert on the first few days, thus alleviating the effects of jet lag. Other people swear by melatonin, which is a natural hormone produced by the body to regulate your sleep-wake patterns. Try taking it for a few nights before you leave. It seems to help the body clock adjust when you get to your destination.

6. Get some sunlight if you can

On arrival, exposure to sunlight (weather and time zones permitting) will help you adjust to the new time. Getting out and doing things helps as well, so resist the urge to lock yourself up in your hotel room and fall asleep immediately, if you can. I made this mistake when I arrived in Los Angeles after a flight from Europe. It took me ages to adjust my body clock!

Try some light exercise too. A few stretching routines can really get your joints moving again. It also helps your mood. When it comes to eating, try to follow the normal mealtimes where you are, although that may mean a snack at a very strange time! Snoozing is all right too but try to avoid a long sleep until it is bedtime in your new location.

One thing to consider, if you really suffer from jet lag, is to fly north or south on the same meridian. No time zones to worry about and you only get tired from the journey. Unfortunately, there’s a more limited range of destinations, though!

Featured photo credit: Jet lag/gavdana via flickr.com

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Robert Locke

Author of Ziger the Tiger Stories, a health enthusiast specializing in relationships, life improvement and mental health.

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Last Updated on November 11, 2019

How to Improve Memory and Boost Your Brainpower

How to Improve Memory and Boost Your Brainpower

Have you ever noticed that some people are able to effortlessly remember even the most mundane details and quickly comprehend new things? Well, you can too!

To unlock the full potential of your brain, you need to keep it active and acute. Wasting time on your couch watching mindless television shows or scrolling through facebook is not going to help.

Besides getting out flashcards, what can you do to help remember things better and learn new things more quickly? Check out these 10 effective ways on how to improve memory:

1. Exercise and Get Your Body Moving

Exercising doesn’t just exercise the body, it also helps to exercise your brain. Obesity and the myriad of diseases that eventually set in as a result of being overweight can cause serious harm to the brain.

Furthermore, without regular exercise, plaque starts to build up in your arteries, and your blood vessels begin to lose the ability to effectively pump blood. Plaque buildup leads to heart attacks and it also reduces the amount of oxygen and nutrients that your blood carries to your brain. When the nutrients don’t make it there, the brain’s ability to function is compromised.

To prevent this from happening, make sure you get moving every day. Even if it’s just a brisk walk, it’ll help you maintain and increase your mental acuity. Brisk walking, swimming and dancing are all excellent activities. Take a look at these 5 Ways to Find Time for Exercise.

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2. Eliminate Stressors and Seek Help If You’re Depressed

Anything that causes you major stress, like anger or anxiety, will in time begin to eat away the parts of your brain that are responsible for memory. Amongst the most brain-damaging stressors is depression, which is actually often misdiagnosed a a memory problem since one of its primary symptoms is the inability to concentrate.

If you can’t concentrate, then you might feel like you are constantly forgetting things. Depression increases the levels of cortisol in your bloodstream which elevates the cortisol levels in the brain. Doctors have found that increased cortisol diminishes certain areas of the brain, especially the hippocampus which is where short-term memories are stored.

Prolonged depression can thus destroy your brain’s ability to remember anything new. Seek professional help to combat your depression – your brain will thank you.

3. Get a Good Night’s Sleep and Take Naps

Getting a consistent 7 to 8 hours of sleep each night will increase your memory. During sleep, the brain firms up memories of recently acquired information.

Getting enough sleep will help you get through the full spectrum of nocturnal cycles that are essential to optimal brain and body functioning during the waking hours. Taking a nap throughout the day, especially after learning something new, can also help you to retain those memories as well as recharge your brain and keep it sharper longer.

4. Feed Your Brain

Fifty to sixty percent of the brain’s overall weight is pure fat, which is used to insulate its billions of nerve cells. The better insulated a cell is, the faster it can send messages and the quicker you will be thinking.

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This is precisely why parents are advised to feed their young children whole milk and to restrict dieting – their brains’ need fat to grow and work properly. Skimping on fats can be devastating even to the adult brain.

Thus, eating foods that contain a healthy mix of fats is vital for long-term memory. Some excellent food choices include fish (especially anchovies, mackerel and wild salmon) and dark leafy green vegetables. Here’re more brain food choices: 12 Foods that Can Improve Your Brain Power

Deep-fried foods obviously contain fat but their lack of nutritional value is not going to help your brain or your body, so think healthy foods and fats.

5. Eat Breakfast and Make Sure It Includes an Egg

According to Larry McCleary, M.D., author of  The Brain Trust Program, an egg is the ideal breakfast. Eggs contain B vitamins which help nerve cells to burn glucose, antioxidants that protect neurons against damage; and omega-3 fatty acids that keep nerve cells firing at optimal speed.

Other foods to add to your breakfast include fruits, veggies and lean proteins. Avoid trans fats and high fructose corn syrup. Trans fats diminish the brain cells’ ability to communicate with each other and HFCS can actually shrink the brain by damaging cells.

Having a healthy breakfast in the morning has been shown to improve performance throughout the day. If you’re too busy to have a healthy breakfast, this maybe just right for you: 33 Quick And Healthy Breakfasts For Busy Mornings

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6. Write it Down

If there’s something you want to remember, writing it down can help.

It may sound like a no-brainer, but do you really know why? Writing it down creates oxygenated blood flow to areas of your brain that a responsible for your memories and literally exercises those parts of it. Here’s How Writing Things Down Can Change Your Life.

You can start a journal, write yourself emails or even start keeping a blog – all of these activities will help to improve your capacity to remember and memorize information.

7. Listen to Music

Research shows that certain types of music are very helpful in recalling memories. Information that is learned while listening to a particular song or collection can often be recalled by thinking of the song or “playing” it mentally. Songs and music can serve as cues for pulling up particular memories.

8. Visual Concepts

In order to remember things, many people need to visualize the information they are studying.

Pay attention to photographers, charts and other graphics that might appear in your textbook; or if you’re not studying a book, try to pull up a mental image of what it is you are trying to remember. It might also help to draw your own charts or figures, or utilize colors and highlighters to group related ideas in your notes.

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Here, you can learn How to Become a Person Who Can Visualize Results.

9. Teach Someone Else

Reading material out loud has been shown to significantly improve memory of the material. Expanding further upon this idea is the fact that psychologists and educators have found that by having students teach new concepts to others, it helps to enhance understanding and recall.

Teach new concepts and information to a friend or study partner, and you’ll find you remember the information a lot better.

10. Do Crossword Puzzles, Read or Play Cards

Studies have shown that doing crossword puzzles, read or play cards on a daily basis not only keep your brain active but also help to delay memory loss, especially in those who develop dementia.

So pick up the daily newspaper and work on that crossword puzzle, read a book or enjoy a game of solitaire.

Pick one to two of these tips first and start applying them to your everyday life. Very soon you’ll find yourself having better memories and a clearer head!

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Featured photo credit: Pexels via pexels.com

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