Jet Lag

What is Jet Lag and How Can I Manage it Effectively?

Flying across time zones confuses your circadian rhythms which can cause nausea, light-headedness, short term memory loss, diarrhoea/constipation, and  sleep disruption. So what can you do about it (apart from just stay home)?

Jet lag is actually the result of demanding accelerated transition from our body. If you think about it like that it’s easier to realise that you need to take particular care of your body so that it has the resources it needs to adjust to the change quickly and easily. You’ve probably heard (and seen) children misbehave on planes and in airports – and that is really an open expression of what your body is trying to say to you when you feel jet lagged, especially if you spent the previous few days running around frantically trying to finish tasks off and get ready. All your systems are confused and pressurised cabins, recirculated air, long periods of sitting still, and starchy food doesn’t help them to adjust.

So, What Can I Do to Prepare for Flight?

Ideally, you’ll manage to slow down and ensure you are well-rested, have plenty of time to prepare and plan so you aren’t just rushing out to the airport in a frenzy.

Sounds unlikely? I hear you, but here are 5 things you should put at the top of your list prior to flying:-

  1. Make breakfast your main meal (ideally meat, egg, mushrooms, and spinach to give you plenty of B12 and magnesium). Having ‘a carcass in your gut’ at night (or a heavy vegetarian meal) is not conducive to restful sleep;
  2. Get 7-8 hours sleep the night before (if you can’t sleep lie down anyway until your alarm goes);
  3. Make sure you keep exercising right up until the day of departure – it dramatically increases your body’s resilience;
  4. Eat lots of green leafy vegetables (magnesium combined with other naturally occurring minerals stimulates your body’s sleep/wake mechanism);
  5. Drink lots of water – even more than you usually do.

Up in the Air…

  • As soon as you get on the plane set your watch for local arrival time and try to adjust your activity to match;
  • Limit alcohol and caffeine (both of these have even greater impact on your systems in a pressurised cabin);
  • Bring your own food. Airline food tends to be fatty, greasy, and carbohydrate-rich, so it makes you feel lethargic because it is actually slowing down your systems (good for flight attendants, bad for your adjustment on arrival);
  • Move and stretch at least 10 minutes out of every hour. I know it’s getting increasingly difficult to do this on planes, but it is an important part of your recovery process;
  • Drink lots of water… you should need to go to the bathroom at least every 2 hours.

Diet & Supplements for Travel

I think it’s important to get most of your nutritional needs from food rather than supplements because your body will stop producing many important vitamins (like B12 which helps balance your sleep/wake cycles) if you constantly consume it as a supplement. That’s why I recommend a substantial breakfast of meat, egg, mushrooms, and leafy greens and plenty of whole grains during the day, as often as possible, to provide steady release of insulin and manage blood sugar and energy. This is especially important on the day before and after you fly.

Shortly before, during, and after flying it’s best to avoid caffeine (including green tea) and alcohol. Instead drink plenty of water and herbal teas to energise your system and help it adjust naturally to the stress of changing time-zones.

Client Stories

Macie had a history of jet lag and hated the sense of disorientation, the swelling, and the sleep difficulties. Many friends had advised her to take sleeping tablets to help her cope, but she didn’t like the idea. She was about to go overseas with her family on an annual trip and she knew from experience how she reacted to the combination of jet lag and passive-aggressive behaviour and she wanted to enjoy her holiday. We used acupuncture in the clinic and she left with some press-tacks at appropriate points, as well as Chinese herbs. On her return we did some more re-balancing, but she was elated because, despite a few incidents she had felt calm and balanced almost the whole time and returned rested and refreshed rather than stressed.

Philip wanted to pre-empt jet lag on his trip to the US because he was going for a conference and wanted to arrive ready to make the most of his experience and opportunities. At the end of our session I placed press tacks in his ear to stimulate points that would help calm his mind, stimulate his liver, and reduce motion sickness. When he returned he said that it had helped enormously and he wished he had had the same treatment for the return journey.

 

Disclaimer:
While these results cannot be generalised or exactly reproduced, these examples give readers an idea of what Chinese Medicine can do for you.

Related Reading:
Improving digestion while travelling