As the holiday season approaches many people choose air travel to reach their destinations. The main advantage is a faster journey than would be possible by train, car, bus, or boat. However, a disadvantage often experienced is jet lag.
Jet lag occurs when we travel across different time zones in one journey, and our body clock gets left behind. Our body follows a 24 hour routine called the circadian rhythm, and it is accustomed to certain periods of sleep and wakefulness. This is disrupted when we cross over several time zones and our body no longer knows whether it is day or night. Also known as flight fatigue, jet lag can be exacerbated by conditions experienced during the flight, such as constant sitting, inadequate or erratic sleep, lack of movement and exercise, being squashed and cramped into a small space, anxiety, eating when our bodies are not ready for food, and lack of hydration.
What does jet lag feel like?
This varies but symptoms include fatigue, insomnia, daytime sleepiness, anxiety, irritability, confusion, and difficulty concentrating. Also included are GIT problems such as bloating, constipation, and generally feeling unwell. Having a comfortable, enjoyable flight and taking care of yourself after the flight, can help minimise jetlag.
So here are some suggestions for before, during and after flying, which may help.
- Ensure you are in good health and fit for travel before embarking on your holiday, as this allows you to bounce back from a long trip more quickly. Being strong and healthy may also help you to avoid catching bugs that often circulate on the plane. Take some hand sanitizer on board too.
- Taking Vitamin E, or herbs such as Ginger, Turmeric, Gingko Biloba or Butcher’s Broom for a few days before flying may help with circulation and prevention of blood clots. Wearing compression flight socks will also help.
- To avoid anxiety before and during the flight, try some Bach rescue remedy drops, or calming herbs such as Kava or Passionflower. Also, try some meditation during the flight if anxiety kicks in.
- Wear loose comfortable clothes and shoes. Take a pair of socks and a warm top as the cabin is often quite cold.
- Move around during the flight by doing stretching exercises in your seat and leaving your seat for short walks around the plane. Choosing an aisle seat allows you to get up and move around easily.
- Avoid alcohol the day before, during the flight, and on the day after. Alcohol causes dehydration and disrupts
sleep. It can also trigger anxiety. Avoid or minimise caffeine intake as well if possible.
- Drink water during the flight, to stay hydrated, as the air inside a plane is very drying. Aim for a glass of water per hour. This will also make you go to the bathroom so you will have to leave your seat and go for walk, which is good for you. This can include herbal tea.
- A small facial spritzer with essential oils can be used to refresh your skin during the flight. Also, bring a tube of moisturiser for dry skin.
- Sleep if the flight occurs during a normal sleep period (a window seat may be preferable if trying to sleep), and avoid napping during hours when you would normally be awake. Avoid taking sleeping pills during the flight.
- Eat light meals during the flight to avoid digestive problems and if you are not hungry, don’t eat.
And when you arrive:
- If it is daytime, keep moving, walk around in the fresh air and sunshine, do some exercise, and if possible resist the urge to sleep until it is evening. This helps your body to adjust to the new time zone.
- Continue to drink lots of water to re-hydrate. Electrolyte drinks such as Hydrolyte can help too.
- To restore some energy post flight, try some herbs such as Siberian ginseng and Rhodiola, or some B Vitamins.
- If it is night, have a warm bath or shower and go to bed, not out for late night drinks. To restore sleep after flying, try sleep inducing herbs such as Passionflower, Kava, California Poppy, and Lemon Balm.
- Finally, oral melatonin has become quite popular for combating jet lag, but please speak to your doctor for recommendations to be sure it is suitable for you.