One of the universal drawbacks of travel is jet lag. Flying across several time zones can turn your internal clock on its head and result in fatigue, headaches, difficulty sleeping, even gastrointestinal discomforts and reduced immune function. Depending on how many times zones you’ve just hopped across, symptoms will usually dissipate within one to three days, once your body acclimates to your new schedule. But you can accelerate the adaptation process or make it less uncomfortable by following these simple tips:
- Start your journey well rested. Get a good night’s sleep prior to beginning your trip, so you’ll be at your best to cope with the stresses of travel.
- Stay hydrated. Drinking plenty of water is key to helping your body adjust to any sort of stress, including the stresses of travel. If you usually drink caffeinated beverages like coffee and tea, do so in moderation. The caffeine may not only make you edgy but will also contribute to dehydration. And avoid alcoholic drinks as they are also dehydrating and can contribute to headaches and irritability.
- Avoid junk food. While on the go, it’s tempting to go for salty, sugary, fatty grab-and-go foods, especially when the offerings of airlines and airports are mainly just that. But keep in mind:
- Salty foods will retain fluids and dehydrate you at the same time, contributing to puffiness around your eyes and sometimes hands and feet;
- Sugary snacks will make your blood sugar soar and then plummet, making you alternate between being jittery and irritable;
- And fatty foods will sit in your stomach like a rock, while you sit immobile on the plane, often leading to gas and indigestion.
All of these lead to general discomfort and ultimately a difficult time fending off jet lag once you arrive at your destination. Instead, opt for fresh fruits and vegetables and lean protein sources whenever possible.
- Try supplements. Melatonin and Pycnogenol have been shown in studies to help reduce the symptoms of jet lag.
- Melatonin is a hormone which helps regulate our internal clock and therefore may be helpful in resetting your sleep cycle. In studies 0.5 mg taken 30 minutes before bedtime helped some people get a restful night’s sleep and feel more alert the next day. (Aisle7, 2013)
- Pycnogenol has been studied specifically for the treatment of jet lag. Researchers in a double-blind, controlled study found that jet lag symptoms were milder and lasted for a shorter period of time in participants taking Pycnogenol than those taking a placebo. Participants took 150 mg Pycnogenol per day for two days prior to travel and continued for five days after arriving at their destination. (Belcaro G, 1998;)