With all the travel I have done, I never knew how bad jet lag could be until I returned from India.
LA to London - 8 time zones. No problem though I used melatonin to help with that trip. Plus I went straight into three days of meetings and networking when I landed.
Toronto to Amman, Jordan - 7 time zones and I was a little tired but nothing that could interfere with the thrill of exploring that country.
Delhi to Toronto - 10 & 1/2 time zones and I thought I might die. Ok, an exaggeration but it was bad.
Jet Lag - More Than Simple Sleep Problems
Some people proudly say that they never get jet lag.
I say that they haven't gotten jet lag yet.
It can happen to anyone, even travelers who regularly fly across multiple time zones without any trouble. You may not experience it for years and then suddenly, for some strange reason, on one trip, it will happen. Just read the almost 100 comments below and you'll learn all about seasoned travelers suddenly struck by jet lag.
The Mayo Clinic describes jet lag as a sleep disorder. I experienced it as much, much more. It wasn't just a matter of being sleepy at the wrong time. I actually felt sick. So sick that I went to the doctor to ensure that I hadn't picked up a bug or parasite while traveling. I was totally messed up by jet lag.
According to the Mayo Clinic it takes "about a day to recover for each time zone crossed." Yes, but that's for the average traveler. Me? I travel all the time. This rule of thumb couldn't apply to me. Well, it did. I crossed ten time zones and on the tenth day I finally started feeling a bit better. However, it took longer still. It was a good three weeks before I really felt somewhat normal.
Jet Lag is the result of messing with our circadian rhythm. As the website of the UK's National Health Service says your "biological clock is usually synchronized with your local time so that you feel hungry in the morning and sleepy in the evening." By shifting your day dramatically within a very short period of time (overnight), we experience the effects of jet lag. The NHS offers 19 symptoms. I had eight of them including:
- sore muscles
- hunger but feeling ill if eating
- difficulty concentrating
- feeling disoriented
- lack of energy
- general feeling of being unwell
Readers have also mentioned:
- motion sickness
- headaches and back aches.
- swollen feet and ankles
- ringing ears
- lack of appetite
Jet Lag Remedies
The American Academy of Sleep Medicine has a few recommendations for dealing with jet lag.
- Before you go. Ease yourself into your future local time zone before you leave by going to bed closer to the time zone of your destination and getting up closer to that time zone as well.
- Drink lots of water during your flight. My rule is to take water on board with me and never decline water when it's offered by the flight attendants. The Aerospace Medical Association suggests about eight ounces of water for every hour you’re in the air. The longer the flight, the more hydration matters.
- Avoid caffeinated drinks and alcohol. Both alcohol and caffeinated drinks dehydrate your body. Stick with water, or, if you want to have a drink, balance it out with an additional 8 ounces of water.
- Live the local time zone fast. As soon as you get to your destination live in the local time zone. Don't try to ease into it. Embrace it.
- Go outside for natural light. This will help your body and its circadian rhythm adjust to the time zone. If you're feeling disoriented, don't go far from your hotel. Perhaps there's a park nearby or a bench at a bus stop. It doesn't have to be exciting, it just has to give you the natural light.
- Avoid naps. Naps will interfere with your ability to adjust to the local time zone. So, if possible, don't take them.
It seems to me that these are pretty logical if your jet lag problem is sleep. Follow this advice and you'll shift your clock and be sleeping through the night on schedule in no time.
But if the jet lag goes beyond sleepiness to you feeling ill you need to work harder at a recovery. If you have serious jet lag, I offer you my sympathies and further recommendations.
- Eat well. Really nourish your body with what it really needs. Protein, fruits and vegetables and only some carbs.
- Sleep at night and take controlled naps during the day - I know that this contradicts the suggestion above but if you're really not well you may have to nap. I did. But set an alarm so that you don't nap for hours.
- Get lots of exercise. If you're going to nap during the day, exercise is absolutely necessary to make you tired so that you can sleep at night. Don't go crazy. Your body is in recovery mode. But a good walk, whatever you're capable of, is beneficial
- You could try melatonin. Some people swear by Melatonin. I found it to be helpful but I'd suggest taking a small dose to start. On my flight between LA and London I took it, (possibly too much) and when I awoke during my flight I was awake but couldn't open my eyes. It was weird. I talked myself to calm and quickly fell asleep again. So use with caution.
- Drink lots of water. Our bodies always benefit from water.
- Drink ginger tea if your stomach is upset. A natural product is always best.
- Hang in there. It will pass.
As you can see from the dozens of comments below, you are not alone. If you have other suggestions please add them to the comments.