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You’re Getting Verrry Sleeepy…Combating Jet Lag On Your Next Long-Distance Trip

Jet lag is a drag. "Plane drain" can make those first few days at a new destination or back home seem like you really do need a vacation.

To travel to some of the world’s top destinations, you typically have to catch a plane. The only glitch in this globe-trotting fantasy is the toll air travel can exact on the body in the form of jet lag.

The root cause of jet lag is the disruption of the body’s circadian physiologic rhythm, which is the internal 24-hour cycle that regulates a person’s normal waking and sleeping periods. Specific symptoms include: insomnia, daytime sleepiness, fatigue, poor concentration, slowed reflexes, indigestion, hunger at odd hours, irritability, depression, lack of resistance to infections, muscle aches, mood disturbances, loss of mental efficiency, and headaches.

The following ten tips (courtesy of The Aviation Health Institute) may keep jet lag on the runway:

  • Nap: A single 70 to 120-minute nap taken prior to the flight can reduce the decline in alertness over the subsequent 24-hour period. After you arrive, try to take a short nap after lunchtime.
  • Stay Up To Midnight: For the first two or three days at your destination, try to stay up to midnight to merge with the body’s natural free-running rhythms.
  • Get Outdoors: Sunlight is an excellent way to reset your internal body clock to coincide with local time.
  • Pack Lightbulbs: Exposure to bright artificial light can also influence the bodyclock. Two glare-free 150-watt light bulbs placed three feet away can help.
  • Go Local: Set your watch according to the local time when you board the plane and act accordingly—eat and sleep on the schedule of your destination.
  • Drink Water/Avoid Caffeine and Alcohol: Because airplane cabins have low humidity and a majority of recycled air, dehydration is prevalent among airplane travelers.
  • Change Your Diet: Concentrate on protein for breakfast and lunch and save the serotonin-loaded carbohydrates for evening to induce relaxation.
  • Pack A Healthy Snack: Ditch the peanuts and soda.
  • Exercise: Sitting for hours immobile in pre-flight is a bad strategy. It’s not too late to even exercise at the gate. Regular exercise before and after a flight will make the adjustment easier.
  • Take Two Aspirin: Once at your destination, take two aspirin (unless allergic, of course) before going to bed.

The use of melatonin as a natural sleeping aid continues to fascinate vacationers. People who take melatonin often have to experiment to find the dose that’s "right" for them. For more information, cybertravelers can check out the website called ‘Melatonin Central’ (www.melatonin.com).

Of course, many other jet lag ‘solutions’ exist. Some of the possibilities include: specific diets; pressure point treatments; chiropractic manipulation; sleeping aids (e.g., blindfolds, ear plugs, neckrests, and blow-up pillows); sleeping pills; and specific products like No-Jet-Lag.