My niece is traveling to Israel this week, and her mother asked me to make suggestions about how to avoid jet lag. She knows that I have traveled above 4 1/2 million miles in my years. (If you divide 4,500,000 by 300 you’ll get the number of hours I have spent in airline seats.)
So I sat down to write a few lines on what to do to cope with it; I doubt there is any way to avoid it. A little later, I discovered that I had written a lot of stuff, and my wife Shirah suggested I post it here as others might find what I had written useful. Here is what I said:
There are several dimensions:
· On the one hand, don’t make a big thing about it. A certain amount of reaction is unavoidable. Everyone has different reactions.
· Jet Lag can arrive as an overwhelming exhaustion (or other symptoms) that can be shocking and can provoke fear, etc. It is no big deal. Sleep, rest, food, exercise, and time cure it without fail.
· On the other hand, a certain amount of discipline in the following usually makes a big difference.
· Learn what your body does, embrace it, and dance with it.
· You can do some useful research by looking up “jet lag” on www.wikipedia.org.
Food and drink:
· No alcohol, no black coffee, no black tea, until you have mastered the domain. All three produce bad effects.
· Avoid sugar, sugary drinks, desserts, candy. They do the same as alcohol and coffee – dehydrate and screw around with the endocrine system that is struggling to catch up with what you are putting it through. Avoid soda drinks, including particularly “diet” drinks.
· Lots of water. I like sparkling mineral water in profusion. I start sipping water when I get on the plane and I keep drinking until I land. Planes are famous for dehydrating you, and hydration makes a big difference in keeping the body flexible with the changes you are putting it through.
· If you have a green tea that you like, take some tea bags with you. I carry a small thermos with me that I take through security empty and then fill with hot water in the terminal or on the plane, and make tea in it. I drink a liter or two of green tea every day when I am traveling.
· Eat good food before, during, and after flying. Salads, fresh veggies, proteins. Avoid carbos. No doughnuts, bread, croissants, bagels, etc.
· The most important “clue” that the body gets about where it is, and uses for coordinating the Circadian rhythms of the body (misalignment in that domain is what produces “jet lag”) is the sun.
· You can help the body to adjust to the changes in timezones by choosing carefully when you are in the dark and in the light. What you want to do is to instruct the body to adjust to the new location by showing it when it is night and when it is day. Use the windows in the airplane to do some of that. When you are flying in to the new location, keep the window coverings down while it is going to be night in the new location, even if it is light outside at the time, and then when the time of the new location’s dawn arrives, open the window and put your face into the bright sunlight for 10-15 minutes.
Rest and exercise:
· When you are tired, rest, or, if you can, nap, with one exception that I’ll state below.
· If you can do some serious exercise before going to the plane, that is good.
· When you have stopovers on the way, walk around the area where you are waiting for the plane to board.
· When you arrive, after getting to your hotel, go take a long walk. If you can’t do that, at least do some exercises in your hotel room. The exercise will help the body arrive to the new location.
· On the first day in the new location, if you are tired, take a nap, but set an alarm so that you get up after about an hour. Do NOT sleep 3-4 hours in the middle of the first day in the new location, or you’ll never get to sleep the first night there, and then you’ll be playing catchup for a while.
· On the first night in the new location, stay up late – even beyond your normal bedtime – and do things that will tire you out, so that you go to bed tired. Very often I wake very early the next day, and it is a lot better if you get a good night’s rest.
· Many outlets carry a homeopathic remedy for jet lag, unsurprisingly named No Jet-Lag (this is the Amazon citation). It has very good effects for a lot of people. Buy enough for both legs of the trip and follow the instructions on the package.
· I carry Melatonin, and take it before bed with water to help regulate the body’s clock. I used to use the recommended doses of 2-3mg per night, but have recently found that 1/2mg – a smaller dose – is more effective. Trader Joes or any pharmacy will carry Melatonin.
· The body gets stressed on trips, and I am careful to take vitamin C, a multivitamin, and other supplements that I find helpful during the trip.