6 tried and tested tips to beat jet lag
No travel plans should be ruined by the misery of jet lag. These tried-and-tested methods will reduce its potency, leaving you to the get the most from your trip.
Whether you're travelling for business or pleasure, jet lag can affect everyone. It’s caused when your regular sleep pattern is disturbed by changing time zones – often due to a long-haul flight. It can cause tiredness, exhaustion, insomnia, headaches, tummy upset and confusion. Generally speaking, for each timezone you cross, you’ll need a full day and night to get in sync with the local time at your new destination. So far, so bad.
“Most of us take jet lag as part and parcel of travelling, when in fact we can reduce the effects,” says Jenny Graham, managing director of Quintessentially Travel. Her tried and tested tip? “Drink all the water you can, ensuring you’re fully hydrated two days pre-travel, so you get on the plane in the best possible condition.”
And that’s not the only method. Here are some ways which can help you alleviate the symptoms of this most irritating of modern malaises.
Words by Amber Elias
Think about fasting
A study in 2009 by Harvard University and the Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center in Boston found that by manipulating your ‘eating clock’, rather than your ‘sleep clock’, humans can adjust better to time changes. This research suggests fasting a minimum of 12 hours before you would eat breakfast at your new destination, which should offset jet lag before you’ve even stepped onto the plane. Taking this idea one step further is the Argonne Anti-Jet-Lag-Diet. Released in 1983, the plan suggests alternating feast and fast days to prepare the body for travel, manipulating the internal clock to transition to the new timezone quicker.
“Magnesium maintains the healthy level of GABA (a neurotransmitter that promotes sleep) in the body,” says nutritionist and founder of GP Nutrition, Gabriela Peacock. The company’s Fly Me programme combines science and natural supplement to prep your body for jetting off. Its protein powder is a meal replacement for when you’re up in the air (so you can skip unhealthy sugar- and salt-filled snacks) while a dose of magnesium will help you sleep when you arrive.
Book a massage
You can relieve tired limbs and stimulate blood flow with a massage tailored to post-flight stresses. “Massages help alleviate the symptoms of jet lag by stimulating the lymphatic system and circulation in general, relieving bloating, loosening up joints and easing muscle tension,” says Jenya Emets, founder of the Cloud Twelve wellness club. If you land at night, choose a relaxing massage with nourishing oils to help your skin rehydrate. If you arrive during the day, opt for an invigorating massage to activate limbs and increase blood circulation. The Padabhyanga Massage at Cloud Twelve is designed to correct the imbalances that jet lag causes and includes lymphatic drainage and personalised ayurvedic oils.
To booze or not to booze?
“Alcohol is a central nervous system depressant and has effects as strong as many sleeping pills, depending on how large a ‘dose’ is taken,” says Dr Colin Espie, a sleep expert from the University of Oxford and co-founder of Sleepio, a sleep improvement programme. “Consequently, it can make a person feel sleepy and may also result in them falling asleep more quickly.” The catch? “Using alcohol as a sleep aid isn’t a good idea. Its beneficial effects for inducing sleep tend to be short-lived, and overall, people tend to view alcohol-related sleep as being of a poorer and less restorative quality.” Stick to still water instead.
Our circadian rhythms are controlled by sunlight, and when dealing with jet lag it’s vital to expose your body to light as soon as possible. “Exposure to light stimulates a nerve pathway from the retina in the eye to the hypothalamus in the brain,” says Jenya Emets of Cloud Twelve. “There, the suprachiasmatic nucleus (SCN) initiates signals that control hormones, body temperature and other functions that make us feel sleepy or wide awake. Once exposed to the first light each day, the clock in the SCN raises body temperature and releases stimulating hormones like cortisol.” A portable lightbox like the Lumie Zest uses blue-enriched white LEDs has the same effect on the body as sunlight, triggering the SCN.
Get the needle
According to the British Acupuncture Council, in “Chinese medicine theory, certain organs are more easily affected by changes in time zones, with those associated with sleep and digestion most affected by jet lag.” According to tradition, acupuncture works by inserting ultra-fine needles into specific acupuncture points on the body to re-establish the free flow of ‘qi’ (energy flow) which restores balance and triggers the body's natural healing response.
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