Why we get Jet-lag | How to fight it
In this day and age, it is common to leave your place of origin in hopes of discovering a new part of the world. The majority of people are passport holders, and can claim that they’ve traveled to at least one other country. Something that we face now, as opposed to our ancestors centuries ago, are the implications that follow quick travel. We can hop on a plane and travel to the other side of the world in hours, when our ancestors generally wouldn’t leave their region. Like with any other technological advancement, this one comes with a setback. Our bodies are unable to adapt to the time change in relation to how fast we are getting to the new destination. This problem is commonly referred to as jet-lag.
Jet-lag is a chrono-biological problem that occurs when we travel long distances. Upon arrival, our circadian rhythm (sleep and wake cycle) is out of sync with the new destination’s time. Our bodies react to dusk and dawn in a different way than that happening in the environment. This affects not only our sleep, but our blood pressure, body temperature, hormone regulation and when we feel hungry. Sounds like a nightmare right? It is… but, luckily there are some simple ways to prepare for and prevent jet-lag during your travels.
1. Use an efficient amount of melatonin
Many of us actually misuse melatonin, and in turn end up eliminating any positive effect it may have on us. I used to believe that melatonin could be used in a similar way to any other sleep drug, you take it and pass out. Unfortunately, I was very wrong and many other people are in the same boat. Melatonin is a naturally occuring hormone in our bodies that affects our sleep and wake cycle. It’s levels rise in the evening to make you sleepy and lower in the morning, leaving you alert and awake. You do not need to take a high dose, keep in mind that many over the counter brands will suggest a higher dose than necessary, 1-3 miligrams two hours before sleep is enough. When using for jet-lag, be sure to start the cycle a few days before leaving. Time it so you are taking the melatonin two hours before whatever bedtime you will set in your new destination.
2. Restrict blue light exposure at night
In this modern world, we are exposed to artificial light everywhere we go. The blue light from our phones and laptops are a daylight signifier to our minds. There are a few ways to avoid this harmful light, one being f.lux. This is a free app for your computer that adjusts the light on your screen to match that of your surroundings. In the morning the screen will appear bright like sunshine and in the evening it will dim to match the ambience in your room. Another option is to use blue light-blocking glasses, this is our favoured choice. We bought our first pair of computer light-deflecting glasses a few months ago and have never looked back. The frequency of headaches has decreased and we noticed that it isn’t as difficult to fall asleep at night. Plus, they now come in tastful styles so all of you that wish you could wear glasses, this is your time to shine!
3. Shift your time zone early
Most symptoms of jet-lag occur once you reach your destination, but we have found that preparation makes all the difference. Now when we travel long distance, preparation starts a week in advance. Melatonin is the first port of call, taking at the desired time and practicing synchronising your sleep cycle well before leaving. This reduces the chance of negative symptoms upon arrival. There is an amazing app for shifting time zones called Timeshifter. This uses the latest in sleep and circadian neuroscience to create personalised jet-lag plans.
4. Light morning exercise
A simple tip. When you arrive in your new destination, practice light physical activity in the morning to promote blood flow and get you ready for the day ahead. Although it may seem like the desired act, try to avoid exercising in the evening at the beginning, even if you are kept awake into the night. Working out in natural sunlight will help reset your rhythm to combat the effects of jet-lag as quickly as possible.
5. Limit mealtimes and alcohol
Along with blue light and a regular sleep cycle, our eating patterns can heavily affect our bodies ability to adjust in a new destination. It is important to begin this synchronisation on the plane or quickly after you land. Many airlines attempt to feed you at the correct time, but that is never guarenteed. Sticking to a mealtime schedule can be difficult during the first few days. You may feel your blood sugar drop making you shaky and unsteady. An easy way to combat this is with a glucose tablet, which you can find on Amazon or your closest health food store. It is important to always stay hydrated during your travels, this will help tremendously with jet-lag. One of our go-to products to stay hydrated on long trips are the 1Above effervescent tablets. This is a natural, convenient and tasty way to rehydrate and replenish the body with vitamins and electrolytes.