Wednesday, November 25, 2009

How to avoid jet lag – general tips

Jet lag is a physical reaction to a rapid change in time zones.

It affects most people, even seasoned travelers! Including flight staff that travel often.

It’s often been said that it takes the body one day to recover for each time zone crossed. In my case, that could be a week-long recovery!

This time, I got a little smarter and figured out how to avoid jet lag (or at least minimize it)

I've just traveled from Perth, to San Francisco (via Sydney) again for the fourth time in 18 months, and have copped another dose of it! This time I’ve only got some mild effects because I created some new patterns for myself. Mostly, drinking LOTS of extra water before, during and after the flight. And resting the day before the flight, instead of running around preparing to the last minute, like I did in the past.

Some of the contributing factors of jet lag can be quite debilitating and include:

· Dehydration

· Unfamiliar foods

· Cramped spaces

· Recycled air

· Lack of sleep

· Uncomfortable clothes

· Continual low-level noise

· Connections that disrupt sleep

· Quite frankly it can make you feel beat up!

Some of the symptoms of this disruption to circadian-rhythm include:

· Exhaustion

· Irritability

· Headache

· Dehydration (dry eyes, throat, nose, even skin)

· Disorientation

· Anxiety

· Indigestion

· Irregular bowel movements, constipation or diarrhea

· Impaired co-ordination (Including: bumping into things, dropping things)

What To Do?

Pre flight

· Plenty of sleep

· Plenty of exercise

· Drink lots of water – hydrate

· Avoid or limit alcohol and caffeine. Especially avoid a party night the evening before you fly, so you can give your body maximum energy to cope with the travel and time changes. Alcohol and caffeine are also diuretics, which deplete the body of maximum hydration.

· Prepare for your flight in advance so you can relax the day before. Reducing stress, anxiety or excitement prior to the flight will help your body clock adjust with more ease

During the flight

· Wear or change into comfortable clothing. Or even, put on your pajamas!

· Carry a set of ear plus and an eye mask to help you block out noise and light whilst you sleep.

· Use a travel pillow or neck rest to also aid your positional comfort when sleeping.

· Avoid or limit alcohol and caffeine. With the pressurization of the cabin it accelerates the effects of dehydration.

· Drink plenty of water. Set a target to drink 2 liters (4 pints) during the flight.

· Eat as little as possible. Most people don’t enjoy the meals on the flight, but rather eat out of boredom. Even in business or first class, where the food served is often quite delicious, it’s not necessary to eat as much as is served. Try to eat fresh fruit (even pack your own to take on board).

· Move about the cabin and stretch for some exercise when possible. In your seat, stretch regularly, pay attention to your spine and give it a chance to stretch and ‘breathe’. In your seat, circle your ankles and do some knee/leg lifts to aid circulation.

· As soon as you board your flight, set your watch to your destination time. Adjust your body clock immediately to the new time zone: If it’s going into night time, then do your best to sleep, or at least meditate and nap for as long as possible to align your body clock. If it’s daytime, then stay awake.

· If you get the opportunity to have a shower during a stop-over then it can be a great way to assist with nurturing your body. It not only assists with freshening you up, it also aids in relaxing your muscles and improving circulation.

Arriving at your destination

· If it’s daytime, then do your best to stay awake. This is the KEY. It’s important to reset your body clock as soon as possible to help avoid jet lag. Or at least minimize it. Do your best to stay awake until mid-evening at least. You will likely have a shorter sleep cycle for the first night. But then usually return to your regular sleeping pattern the second night. If you go to sleep during the day, you will likely sleep for days!

· If daytime, spend some time outdoors in the daylight and eat gentle and nourishing foods for your body to spend as little energy to digest. Salads, fruit, low-fat meals are great.

· If it’s evening when you arrive, go to bed as soon as possible. If you are restless, have a hot bath or shower, drink a calming herbal tea (such as chamomile) and listen to some calming music. Meditate or sit quietly to still your mind and body. Avoid stimulating your mind with watching TV or movies. Choose instead a little time for yourself to wind down.

· Drink plenty of water!

Hope these tips on how to avoid jet lag helps you the next time you do a long-haul flight. Whether you are traveling for business or holiday, take care of you so you can maximize your trip. That way you get to spend as much time as possible enjoying your new location.

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