In today’s fast-paced world, it’s not easy to adjust one’s schedule prior to a trip. But the primary cause of jet lag is disruption to your body clock, otherwise known as circadian rhythm. If you are flying through two or more time zones, your body clock is out of sync and may cause you to experience one or more symptoms, including fatigue, insomnia and confusion. To lessen the effects of jet lag prior to your departure, try to gradually adjust your schedule if possible and get plenty of rest the night before.
Staying hydrated before, during and after your arrival is essential to lessening symptoms of dehydration. This means drinking plenty of water, even if it requires multiple trips to the airplane’s restrooms. If you drink alcohol, you should try to avoid consuming any alcoholic beverages the night before and during the flight to minimize the risk of dehydration and travel fatigue. Also know that flying at high altitudes or flying at night magnify the negative effects of alcohol consumption. One other source of dehydration is the use of caffeine. If you’re hoping to get some rest on the flight, try avoiding caffeine. Above all, keeping hydrated is the most important way to reduce the effects of jet lag.
Plan on having a light dinner the night before, for your morning breakfast and during your flight. Try to restrict foods high in fat such as cheeseburgers, pizza, potato chips and ice cream, which can leave you feeling bloated and sluggish. If you’re trying to stay awake during your flight, foods high in protein such as turkey breast, salmon, cheese, beef, yogurt and beans can help you stay alert. On the other hand, if you’re trying to get some rest, reduce your protein intake and eat more food items that are high in complex carbohydrates, such as whole grain cereal, bananas, potatoes, beans, pasta and oatmeal. During your flight, it also helps to move about the cabin, not only to stretch your legs, but also to reduce the risk of jet lag and the risk of swelling of your legs and feet (thrombosis). If you have a long layover, you should get off the plane and go for an extended walk; you’ll have plenty of time to rest when back on board.
Traveling through more than one time zone means being onboard a plane for several hours. Because flights to Europe are typically overnight and arriving the following morning, you’ll feel much more rested if you are able to get some sleep. If you find it difficult to fall asleep, you may want to consider using a short-acting, over-the-counter or prescription sleeping pill, but only if you have consulted with your personal physician in advance of your trip. One widely used treatment for reducing the effects of jet lag is melatonin, a hormone found naturally in the body. When taken as a supplement in pill form, the latest research has showed that melatonin can help you sleep, in addition to aiding in resetting your body clock. If you think melatonin is worth a try, speak with your doctor for recommendations, especially if you have a medical condition and/or take other medications that may counteract with it. If you prefer a homeopathic remedy, some of the better known products on the market are No-Jet-Lag and JetZone. Most importantly, if you have a chronic condition, such as diabetes, you should schedule a medical exam well in advance of your trip.
After you have arrived at your destination and checked into your hotel or other lodging, you shouldn’t stay in your room to get more rest. Instead, try to adjust to the time change and go outdoors and get some fresh air, exercise and hopefully some sunshine. After a nice stroll, plan on staying up and going to bed around the same time you would normally but with the new time change. The following day is more of the same; avoid staying indoors, get some exercise and go to bed around the same time you would at home.