How to alleviate the effects of jet lag
Is your body clock having problems adjusting to a new time zone? Here are a few tricks to recover from jet lag and its negative effects.
Good to know
- Jet lag is easier to handle when you’re traveling west as opposed to east.
- It’s estimated that it takes 1 day per time zone crossed to recover.
- Age, health and energy level are all factors that can influence recovery time.
A few days before leaving, change your sleep pattern so that your body can more easily adapt.
- If you’re travelling east, go to bed increasingly early to change your wake-up time.
- The opposite applies when you’re travelling west. Go to bed later to wake up later.
In any case, rest well before leaving because fatigue multiplies the negative effects of jet lag.
On the plane
- Use sleep aids: sleeping mask, pillow, blanket and ear plugs.
- After takeoff, set your watch to the destination time.
- Avoid sleep disruptors like heavy meals, coffee, alcohol and sleeping pills, which could knock you out too much.
- Drink water to stay hydrated… but not too much, to avoid frequent trips to the bathroom.
As soon as you arrive, try to follow the sleeping time, meal times and wake time.
If your trip is just for 2 or 3 days, keep your normal schedule but take power naps to recover lost sleep.
And lo, there was light!
Your body clock needs the sun’s rays to adjust itself.
Those traveling east should opt for morning exposure, whereas those traveling west should get late afternoon rays to help regulate their wake-sleep cycle.
Combining exercise (approximately 30 minutes a day) with exposure to sunlight will help you adapt.
You can also use luminotherapy. Consult this light therapy lamp purchasing guide.
The power nap
Nothing beats a power nap to replenish your energy without breaking your new wake-sleep cycle.
Don’t sleep for more than 20 minutes, though!
Alternative medicine to the rescue
If you aren’t a fan of sleeping pills, there are other natural options.
The scientific community is divided on these methods, so be sure to discuss them with your doctor first.
The virtues of melatonin
Also known as the hormone of darkness, melatonin helps treat sleep disorders, like jet lag and insomnia.
Dose and time of day are very important.
- Traveling east: 1 mg before bedtime
- Traveling west: 1 mg in the morning
Avoid mixing alcohol and melatonin because of the following side-effects:
- Loss of appetite
The benefits of plants
Plants like valerian (cat nip), passion flower (passiflora), lime, lemon balm, St. John’s wort (hypericum), verbena, lavender and hops have relaxing properties.
Other natural products, like No-Jet-Lag or Badger Balm are available over the counter.
Reset your Chi with acupuncture
Acupuncture, which is believed to have originated around 100 BC in China, is a way of stimulating your energy flow (a.k.a. Chi).
Known for energizing the neurovisceral system, acupuncture can help soothe jet lag and insomnia.
For more details, consult the Ordre des acupuncteurs du Québec (French only).
For gadget freaks
There’s an app for overcoming jet lag.
- Entrain (free on the App Store and Google Play)
- Jet Lag Rooster (free on the App Store and Google Play)
- SkyZen (free on the App Store)
If you prefer light therapy, the illumy Sleep and Wake Mask is the perfect solution. It uses gently dimming (or brightening) light to help you fall asleep (or wake up) naturally.
There is also the HumanCharger®. Use it for 12 minutes a day to replenish your energy levels.