Good­bye jet lag Sa­cred sites in South­ern France

If you are lucky enough to be chang­ing time zones these hol­i­days, make sure you don’t waste a minute to jet lag.

Living Now - - Front Page - By He­len Way­land He­len Way­land is a clin­i­cal hyp­nother­a­pist, per­sonal coun­sel­lor and EMDR ther­a­pist work­ing in St. Kilda, Mel­bourne.

Why do we get jet lag? The an­swer is sim­ple. Our bod­ies are finely cal­i­brated to each sec­ond of every day through our in­ter­nal body clock – and with 100 tril­lion cells in the body, each of which has its own ver­sion of a body clock, this is one very del­i­cately bal­anced or­gan­ism.

We’re aware of the ob­vi­ous in­di­ca­tors like blood pres­sure, di­ges­tion, alert­ness and fa­tigue, but there are daily rhythms to the or­gans, the skin, the brain chem­istry and hor­mones, and much more be­sides. This in­cred­i­ble col­lec­tion of pro­cesses is del­i­cately bal­anced within the circadian rhythms that are unique to each of us and which take place within a 24 hour-ish cy­cle (it varies for each per­son). Re­searchers study this stuff by putting peo­ple in dark places with no in­di­ca­tors of time, and what they have dis­cov­ered is that these rhythms con­tinue to take place even when we are in to­tal dark­ness for weeks upon end. For those of us out­side the lab, they are also reg­u­lated and re­set each day by ex­po­sure to sun­light.

What hap­pens when we change time zones?

We strap our­selves into a large metal con­tainer and fly through the sky, land­ing in a dif­fer­ent time zone for our hol­i­days or busi­ness trips. How­ever our bod­ies, still op­er­at­ing to our ha­bit­ual daily rhythms, con­tinue as be­fore — un­til we have sun­light upon our eyes, which in­di­cates to the main di­rec­tor of the bi­o­log­i­cal clock (nu­clei be­hind the bridge of the nose above the spot where the two op­tic nerves in­ter­sect) what time it is. Then the body starts chang­ing its pro­cesses to the new time. Mean­while, we may have slept through a day; de­sired a steak at 4am or feel like we are walk­ing through in­vis­i­ble trea­cle and com­mu­ni­cat­ing at a frac­tion of our abil­i­ties. The peren­nial ques­tion is: how do we min­imise the tran­si­tion pe­riod, or avoid these symp­toms al­to­gether?

Act like you are al­ready there

Ex­perts sug­gest that you eat more lightly than usual and drink plenty of wa­ter on your flight. Af­ter you get to the air­port and check in, start think­ing about what time it is at your des­ti­na­tion and when you would be eat­ing meals be­tween now and then. Set your watch to the new time zone if you like. Try to time your food in­take to your des­ti­na­tion. For ex­am­ple, would you be eat­ing a huge meal at mid­night? Most air­lines al­low you to or­der spe­cial meals at time of book­ing: get the salad.

This will start to tell your body that some­thing dif­fer­ent from your usual rou­tine is oc­cur­ring. Avoid caf­feine, heavy foods and soft drinks dur­ing the flight as this may de­hy­drate the body fur­ther (fly­ing is very de­hy­drat­ing) – caus­ing an even more painful tran­si­tion to the new time zone. Get up and walk about, stretch, to try to get your blood mov­ing around the body while on board.

Get out­side as soon as pos­si­ble

When you ar­rive, get out­side (prefer­ably into sun­light) as soon as pos­si­ble be­cause the body has an im­mensely sen­si­tive ca­pac­ity to up­date it­self to the new time zone if you al­low it the cir­cum­stances. Our bod­ies de­tect the hu­mid­ity in the air, and even get­ting your skin into night-time fresh air will help.

Try to stay awake un­til it’s time for bed at your new des­ti­na­tion – ex­perts all rec­om­mend 10pm or so. If this is im­pos­si­ble, aim for 1.5-hour naps as this is the length of a sleep cy­cle and you will help to re­fresh your­self while still be­ing able to sleep at night.

Con­sult a spe­cial­ist

Be­cause the se­cret rhythms of time in the body are run by the un­con­scious mind, you could see a hyp­nother­a­pist who can help you com­mu­ni­cate with your un­con­scious mind that the trip is com­ing, that you have ar­rived, and as an added bonus, set up a trick of time dis­tor­tion in the brain so that the flight seems to be short and com­fort­able! n

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