Avoid jet lag, naturally
There are ways to keep your body clock ticking without taking medication during long-haul flights, writes
HILE you’re reading this, half a million people are up in the air, literally.
Next year, according to the International Air Transport Association, 3.6 billion passengers will board a flight somewhere in the world, 800 million more than in 2011.
Even taking into account short flights, that’s a lot of jet lag. But it doesn’t have to be that way.
Nor do you need to take sleeping tablets or prescription-only melatonin (best used when a regimen is calculated for your own melatonin levels).
There are more natural ways to minimise the effect of crossing multiple time zones on the circadian rhythm, our “body clock” that tells us when to go to sleep, when to be wide awake and when to eat.
BEFORE YOU FLY
Before you even get near an airport, choose your flights wisely. Try to fly direct (fewer stopovers means less time in the air) and try to arrive in the late afternoon or evening, so that the tired feeling from flying coincides with a “normal” bedtime at your destination.
Flying west (Brisbane to London, for instance) is generally easier on the body clock than flying east (Brisbane to Los Angeles) because you’re prolonging the length of a natural day.
When you’re flying west, try to go to bed as late as possible for two or three nights before you fly.
Preparing to travel east is trickier, says Dr Siobhan Banks of the Sydney-based Sleep Health Foundation, because adjusting to jet lag requires applying light in scientific ways so you don’t make it worse.
“The trick then, is to not have too much bright light in the afternoon and evening (on arrival), so wearing sunglasses until the afternoon can help.”
UP IN THE AIR
If it’s daytime at your destination during the flight, try to relax instead of sleeping. And heed the advice of healthy flyers everywhere: staying hydrated, eating in moderation and limiting your alcohol and caffeine intake can really reduce the effects of jet lag, Banks says.
For years, I’ve been using a homeopathic jet lag remedy called Jet Ease ( jetease.com.au) developed in New Zealand. These chewable tablets, which are taken every two hours during the flight, contain herbal extracts such as arnica montana and wild camomile to help improve circulation, reduce dehydration and relax, so that you arrive more rested, which is the first step towards avoiding jet lag.
It’s all about light when you reach your destination, Banks says. In other words, getting the right amount at the right time, to reset your circadian rhythm so you’re in synch with the time zone at your destination.
You can enlist the help of devices such as Retimer glasses (re-timer.com). These Google Glass-like frames worn before, during and after a flight, emit UV-free green light at specific times based on where and when you’re flying. There’s also an app for that – Entrain (entrain.math.lsa .umich.edu).
Or keep it simple by taking a walk or having a swim when you arrive.
“If it makes you feel good to get out in a natural environment and connect with your new surroundings by, say, going to the beach, do it,” Banks says.
“We often try to be very scientific about it, but if you do things you find enjoyable that will help you adjust naturally. You’re on holiday after all.”