With all the travel I have done, I never knew how bad jet lag could be until I returned from India.
Last fall I traveled LA to London – 8 time zones. No problem though I used melatonin to help with that trip. I went 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 yet gotten jet lag. It can happen to anyone, even travelers who regularly fly across multiple time zones without any trouble. For some strange reason, on one trip, it will happen.
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. It was that I felt sick. So sick that I went to the doctor to ensure that I hadn’t picked up a bug or parasite while traveling. No, I was just 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:
- sore muscles
- hunger but feeling ill if eating
- difficulty concentrating
- feeling disoriented
- lack of energy
- general feeling of being unwell
Jet Lag Remedies
The American Academy of Sleep Medicine has a few recommendations for dealing with jet lag.
- Before you go. Ease yourself into the 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.
- Live local time zone fast. As soon as you get to your destination live in the local time zone.
- Go outside for natural light. This will help your body and its circadian rhythm adjust to the time zone.
- Avoid naps. Naps will interfere with your ability to adjust to the local time zone so, if possible, don’t take them.
- Drink lots of water. I don not understand how and why this works but it does. My rule is to take water on board with me and never decline water when it’s offered by the flight attendants.
- Don’t drink caffeinated drinks or alcohol. Stick with water.
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 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. Nourish your body with what it really needs. Protein, fruits and vegetables and only some carbs.
- Sleep at night but nap in the day – I know that this contradicts the suggestion above but if you’re really no well you may have to nap. I did.
- 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.
- Drink lots of water. Our bodies always benefit from water.
- Hang in there. It will pass.
As you can see from the many comments, you are not alone. If you have other suggestions please add them to the comments.