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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

More by this author

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 January 26, 2021

Science Says A Glass Of Red Wine Can Replace 1 Hour Exercising

Science Says A Glass Of Red Wine Can Replace 1 Hour Exercising

Are you a red wine drinker? What if I tell you sipping in a glass of wine can equate to an hour of exercise? Yup, it’s tried and tested. A new scientific study has just confirmed this wonderful news. So next time you hold a glass of Merlot, you can brag about one hour of hard workout. Rejoice, drinkers!

What the study found out

“I think resveratrol could help patient populations who want to exercise but are physically incapable. Resveratrol could mimic exercise for the more improve the benefits of the modest amount of exercise that they can do.”

(applauds)

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I’m not saying this, but the study’s principal investigator Jason Dyck who got it published in the Journal of Physiology in May.

In a statement to ScienceDaily, Dyck pointed out that resveratrol is your magic “natural compound” which lavishes you with the same benefits as you would earn from working out in the gym.

And where do you find it? Fruits, nuts and of course, red wine!

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Did I forget to mention Dyck also researched resveratrol can “enhance exercise training and performance”?

There are limits, of course

But, all is not gold as they say. If you’re a lady who likes to flaunt holding a glass of white wine in the club or simply a Chardonnay-lover,you have a bad (sad) news. The “one hour workout” formula only works with red wine, not non red wines. And don’t be mistaken and think you’ve managed 4 to 6 hours of workout sessions if you happen to gulp down a bottle of red wine.

And what can replace the golden lifetime benefits of exercise?Exercise is just as important as you age. Period! But hey, don’t be discouraged; look at the bigger picture here. A glass of red wine is not a bad deal after all!

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The health benefits of red wine

But just how beneficial is the red alcoholic beverage to your body? As we all know red wine is a healthier choice youc an make when boozing.

Let’s hear it from a registered dietitian. Leah Kaufman lists red wine as the “most calorie friendly” alcoholic beverage. Sure, you won’t mind adding up to a mere 100 calories per 5-ounce glass of red wine after you realize it contains antioxidants, lowers risk of heart disease and stroke, reduces risk of diabetes-related diseases, helps avoid formation of blood clots and lowers bad cholesterol level.

Wantmore? Wine could also replace your mouthwash because the flavan-3-ols in red wines can control the “bad bacteria” in your mouth.To add to that list of benefits, moderate wine drinking may be beneficial for your eyes too – a recent study mentions.

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Be aware of the risks, too

Having mentioned all the ‘goods’ about red wine, you cannot underplay the fact that it is still an alcohol, which isn’t the best stuff to pour into your body. What is excessive drinking going to do to your body? Know the risks and you should be a good drinker at the end of the day.

However, you don’t want to discard the red vino from your “right eating”regimen just because it stains your teeth blue. M-o-d-e-r-a-t-i-o-n. Did you read that? That’s the operative word when it comes to booze.

By the way, when chocolate is paired with wine, particularly red, they can bring you some exceptional benefits towards your health.But again, if you tend to go overboard and booze down bottles after bottles, you are up for the negative side of alcohol, and we all know what too much of sweetness (sugar) can do to our body (open invitation to diabetes and heart diseases if you aren’t aware).

Folks, the red grape beverage is certainly a good buy to have a good hour’s worth of cardio, provided you keep the ‘M’ word in mind. Cheers!

Featured photo credit: James Palinsad via flickr.com

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