Got The Jet Lag Blues?
We have all done it. You take that twelve hour flight around the globe. You show up with a second wind, ready to explore the new land and culture that you intend to delve into with all of your heart and soul, and then? Then it hits you. Jet Lag & How Not to Be a Lag with it.
Jet lag has a funny way of getting you down. It sneaks up on you when you least expect it. It crashes the party and sucks your will to remain conscious right out of you. It puts you flat on your back when all your mind and soul wants to do is celebrate your recent arrival. It is, without a doubt, one of the oddest biological phenomena that traveler’s fall victim to-right after food poisoning and traveler’s diarrhea.
This proposes the inevitable question that all of jet lag’s victims beg to ponder: How do you cure it?
Some say that you must drink lots of caffeine and stay up until a reasonable hour, then force yourself to sleep by doping yourself senseless to counteract the caffeine. Some say that you need to sleep immediately. Some say exercise. Some say shine a flashlight behind each knee for two minutes each. Hey, don’t look at me. I didn’t say it first.
I’ve tried them all. Some were more successful than others, but they all ended with the same sad crash. Take for example last year’s big journey.
After a 24 hour voyage from the continental US to eastern Africa, I was deep-fried to the point of extra crispy. My eyelids weighed twenty tons each and my body didn’t feel much lighter. Oh sure, I tried to stay up for hours until the sunset. I tried drinking tea and eating a well rounded meal. But all of my efforts were in vain! I ultimately ended up exacerbating myself until I reached overdrive, meaning a third wind. The consequence? I was conscious for over 24 hours. I transcended time and space. The local livestock that wandered the streets became my friends and I stopped speaking in any coherent language. Everything was hysterical until the inevitable crash which ended in me blubbering in tears in my bed praying for sleep to take me.
So nearly two years and a few countries later, what do I believe I could have done differently? Well, let’s get scientific. Jet lag is no mystery. It’s biological, like I said. Your biological clock has just gone on a roller coaster ride from Hades, been thrown off the tracks, and desperately needs some assistance getting back en route. With that being said, there is no “cure”. But there are things that you can do to help your system adjust.
Check out these 5 simple tips for easing your jet lag blues:
Give yourself time.
This is the most important. Those things which have no immediate cure, time must heal. Remember in a few days you will be right back on track. Try to remain patient with your body and listen to what it tells you. We all have needs. While you are adjusting, you may have more needs than usual.
Boost your immune system.
Traveling takes it out of you. When your body gets that exhausted your immune system takes an inevitable hit. Don’t assume that you have the immune system of Hercules. You are exposed to germs in closed quarters on airplanes, taxis and buses. You are exposed to new bacteria in food. I suggest a natural remedy. Vitamin C, Echinacea, or, my personal favorite, Airborne. Start taking it before your journey and continue for a few days after.
Assist your sleeping.
You may feel exhausted but physically unable to sleep. Don’t be afraid to help your body out. Bring along a few sleeping pills for the first few days. If you don’t like taking drugs, then try a natural remedy like melatonin or valerian root. Keep in mind that your new environment may not be synonymous with your ideal sleeping conditions. Pack some ear plugs and a sleep mask. Whether it is herds of feral dogs in South America or roosters and the 5 am call to prayer in Africa, you should be prepared for anything.
You have just shocked your system. New foods are fun to try and one of the best things about exploring the globe, but take it easy the first few days. Stay away from rich foods that your body has to work overtime to digest. You only risk upsetting your stomach by pushing your digestive system and risking exposure to new bacteria.
Drink lots of water.
Water helps to flush your system and if you are taking immune boosters H2O will assist them in getting rid of potential illnesses before they get you. Furthermore, for those who have been subject to extra long flights crammed between a snoring grandmother and a 300 lb body builder, bodies sometimes suffer dually with sore muscles and achy joints. Water hydrates and helps to repair your muscles faster.
In short, don’t resign yourself to misery, but be prepared to deal with the inevitable side effects of a shocked system. It’s okay to take a few days to adjust. Even Marines get jet lag. Yes, I asked.
If you don’t take all of my tips, I encourage you to at least try a few. Also, keep in mind that a lot of this is circumstantial. I have found that flying east to west is easier to cope with than flying west to east. This is probably due to the fact that it is easier to handle an extended day of droopy eyelids than a shortened one that demands immediate sleep schedule regulation. It’s also worth mentioning that all journeys are unique. A 16 hour flight that lands you two hours behind schedule can be just as detrimental as a 24 voyage that puts you a day ahead. Your body and mind adjust differently depending on the situation.
Most recently I journeyed from the continental US to South America. The time zone was a measly one hour behind home. Regardless, upon arriving I was once again deep-fried to the point of crispy. My trip was long and didn’t permit a lot of sleep. But this time I had a different approach. Post my 18 hour journey, I allowed myself to nap for the afternoon. I then indulged in a walk around town for a few hours until it was an acceptable hour to go to bed. I ate bread and drank lots of water. I took Echinacea, brought ear plugs, kept my sleep mask close, and drank some tea with valerian root. All in all, I was happy and healthy. Within two days I was in tippy top shape. Well, that is until I ate that piece of chicken in the street, but that’s another story.
I like to take this time to thank Tina Spelling for helping me with this amazing article. Check out her works at www.tinastelling.com
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