Friday, March 20, 2015

How to Prevent Jet Lag--my way

photo taken from one of my flights to Maui

What does jet lag have anything to do with food you may ask? Well, there may not be any obvious link between these two subjects. However, for me if I am feeling extreme fatigue with day time sleepiness then I may not be enjoying or appreciating any meals put in front of me. I also find jet lag to be a huge waste of time. Instead of being productive you end up sleeping and feeling tired most of the day with some restless and sleepless nights.

Recently I flew back to Boston from Saigon (or Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam) just in time to celebrate my husband's birthday. The entire trip took nearly 40 hours of travel time including sitting around at different airports. Because of the ice storm causing days of delay in Texas my husband's plane landed a few hours after me. I ended up waiting for him at Logan (airport). I was not properly dressed for the cold weather but luckily my husband had his thick sweater and wool hat to lend me. Once outside of the airport we also had to be in this unusually long line of people waiting for a taxi. Even after midnight there must have been over a hundred people waiting patiently in the frigid cold. Once home I tried to adjust to the current time zone quickly. I slept for the night and woke up the next morning at around 7 am. 

Fortunately for me I have had jet lag only twice in my life (once from traveling for the first time on a plane to the United States--35 years ago, and also my first trip to Europe--20 years ago) and I must tell you that it was not the most pleasant feeling. Some people like my husband deal with jet lag by taking melatonin (over-the-counter supplement) at bedtime to help his body regulate sleep and wake cycles. My flight attendant/professional traveler/neighbor, Inge finds that adjusting one hour per day gets her body acclimated to the current time zone. My friend and nurse practitioner colleague, Deb tells me she stays up all night packing for her trip and ends up being so tired that she would sleep off her jet lag. By the time she gets to her destination she has already fooled her body into adjusting to the local time.

Over the years I have come up with a solution that works for me on how to prevent jet lag. At least it worked everytime for the last 20 years of traveling. My secret for combating jet lag is that during the flight I would sleep at every possible moment and hydrate with plenty of fluid, preferably decaf liquid. Lucky for me I usually sleep even before take-off. I normally wake up when the flight attendants make their way by me with food or drinks. It is as though I have this instinct to just know when it is feeding time even while deeply asleep! I once sat (on the plane) next to a retired Mayo Clinic anesthesiologist who told me the cabin (of the plane) may lack oxygen causing me to sleep easily. Now that is one interesting theory I had not considered until I met him. Once home I try to adjust to the local time. If I land during the day time then I stay awake without taking any naps (which can be quite difficult at times). If it is night time then I sleep. It's that simple for me.  

Here is an interesting article about artificial light and disruption of circadian rhythms,"Screens May Be Terrible for You, and Now We Know Why". This article makes me ponder if watching airline movies/shows and using your own personal screens (kindle, ipad, laptop, and etc) during those long flights increase your risk of circadian rhythm disruption and cause your jet lag to worsen.

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