Long haul airline trips are still a part of life for many of us. Whether a frequent flyer or an occasional globetrotter, travelling through time zones can have a huge impact on the body.
To help you shake off the effects as quickly as possible, here is our guide to what to do before you fly, while in the air and after you land, in order to feel refreshed, hydrated and ready to make the most of your trip.
Jet Lag: its impact
Unfortunately, there is no easy way to get over Jet Lag. But, there are steps to take to mitigate the effects of the disruption that occurs when the body’s circadian rhythm is thrown off.
“Moving through time zones and being exposed to daylight when it would usually be night, and vice versa, can understandably play havoc with how our body functions,” says dermatologist Dr Gary Goldfaden. “When a traveler crosses time zones, the body uses natural cues like sunlight and an eating schedule to try to acclimatize. But because travel is disorienting for the physical body, it can take a few days before all the natural processes even out and become normalized.”
While jet lag can affect people differently, common issues include dehydration, breakouts, bowel problems, bloating and irritability.
It can also have longer lasting effects on health, with symptoms ranging from fatigue and anxiety to insomnia.
The in-flight experience
In order to give yourself a better chance of adjusting to your new time zone, there are a number of things you can do while you’re in the air.
Fast when you fly, avoiding eating on a flight is one way to help get your body on the new time zone, and when you arrive at your destination, eat the meal that is relevant to that time of day.
Keep hydrated by drinking plenty of water on board and avoid alcohol and coffee, which will exacerbate dehydration both during and after flying.
If you know ahead of your trip that you suffer badly with jet lag, it might be worth exploring your carrier options. Some planes are now fitted with hi-tech humidification systems to ensure the air retains more moisture, as well as LED lighting that creates up to 16.7-M shades of color to mimic the natural phases of day and night.
Jet Lag Vs Sleep
When we fly across different time zones our production of melatonin, the hormone that controls our regular sleep-wake cycles and bodily function, gets disrupted.
In addition to the impact on our sleep caused by the initial journey, changes in our diet and the temperature around us will also affect sleep and can prolong the feeling of jet lag as we acclimatize. Dehydration caused by very dry air, as usually the air in planes is 10 to 20% humidity, sometimes even lower also disrupts sleep.
Studies have shown that dehydration can lead to a number of sleep issues, including disturbed sleep and sleep apnea. Dehydration can negatively impact the ability of the pineal glands to produce melatonin; and it also impacts our ability to stay asleep and to get into the deeper stages of sleep.
“Jet lag is usually worse when moving from West to East because travellers lose hours of their day,” says Dr. Goldfaden. Flying East to West on the other hand, gives our bodies extra hours to adjust to a time zone and sync up with a new circadian cycle. With that in mind it’s important to plan ahead. “If time permits, the week before travel start to wake up a few hours earlier every day to get your body used to another time zone,” he advises. “This is probably best for time zones that will be many hours ahead. If you choose to do this, use a light to stimulate your brain and melatonin levels when waking, as the sun will not be up yet.”
When it comes to sleeping on a flight, if you can sleep in accordance with the new time zone then it will help you adjust. However, because of the environment on a plane, the sleep quality is likely to be poor.
To increase your chances of getting some shut-eye on your red-eye wear a sleeping mask, use a neck support, ear plugs and bring your favorite essential oil fragrance. while the hood has a neck support pillow to keep you comfy, but also pulls down over your eyes so you’re able to block out the light, and ear plugs helps with the ambient noise.
When you land…
What you do upon reaching your destination is crucial when it comes to beating jet lag. Exercise regulates the release of 2 important neurotransmitters; serotonin and neuropeptide Y which help control us mood, appetite and endocrine function.
If you arrive in the morning, exercise as soon as possible to help to re-regulate your circadian rhythm and boost your energy.
According to a recent study, exercising earlier in the day, around 7a, or between the hours of 1p and 4p helps to get your body clock back on track and adjust to the new time zone, which should help you to feel more refreshed the next day.
If landing later in the day, the goal is different. It is goal is get to sleep, as this is the best way to acclimatize to a new time zone. If you arrive and you struggle, try taking a good quality, natural melatonin supplement. The best melatonin supplements also contain 5-HTP to promote the production of melatonin and the amino acid L-Theanine, which relaxes the nervous system. Eating a carbohydrate-rich dinner such as rice or pasta can help you wind down, as well as foods such as turkey and nuts that contain tryptophan, a brain chemical involved in sleep.
Have a safe and pleasant flight and Happy Landings.
Enjoy your travels
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