When flying for long hours (even just 3 hours), we can start to experience certain symptoms such as fatigue, nausea, confusion or just feeling zombie-like.
What is it?
This is called jet lag. It’s what happens when the part of your brain called the hypothalamus (centre that controls sleep cycles, appetite and temperature) is conflicted with its “inner time” and your new “outer time”. Further symptoms may include insomnia, GI problems, joint and muscle pain and stiffness, and reduced fitness.
A New Zealand survey from 1994 of international flight attendants found that, despite being used to long air travel, 90% had fatigue over the first 5 days of arrival, 94% had lack of energy/motivation, 93% had broken sleep and 70% had ear, nose or throat issues.
Scientists have estimated that it takes 1 full day to recover for every hour of time difference. Which means that if you took a flight from New Zealand to Singapore, it would take about 4 days before you feel right.
The direction you travel can affect how intense the symptoms are since it’s easier for our bodies to delay our “inner time” than to speed it up. Travelling east is more difficult on the body compared to travelling west.
So how do you manage it?
- Plan it out
-You should expect symptoms to take place after long-haul flights and so you should always plant accordingly. If you have a meeting on Thursday morning, consider arriving 1-2 days in advance instead of getting there Wednesday night and possibly having to struggle through it.
-There is a fasting protocol that can minimize jet lag symptoms. It’s called the Argonne fasting diet. However, it is a little intense, so below is a modified version that you can try if you’re interested.
-On the day of travel, eat normal meals leading up to your flight, then fast immediately before and during your flight while hydrating by drinking plenty of water. Eat soon after landing as close to local meal time as possible. Time your fast 14-24 hours before your next planned meal in your new time zone. Then have your normal eating schedule based on local time.
-Most preferably outdoors since it affects your circadian rhythm and improves mood. Light is the most powerful signal for our internal biological clocks, so it can help reduce jet lag.
-It’s helpful to train at the same time you’d train at home. So if you normally workout at 9 am at home and you travel to London, try your best to train at 9 am London time and do it outside. This helps your muscles and tissues adapt to the new time zone.
-If you’re feeling exhausted then a high intensity cardio workout might not be in the cards… but a light body weight workout or some stretching is definitely helpful. Do what you can, at your usual time, and again, preferably OUTSIDE.
a)Melatonin is a hormone in your body that helps control its circadian rhythm, which plays a role in when we sleep and wake up. Melatonin is dependent on the amount of light you’re exposed to. When there’s light, melatonin release is stopped. When it’s dark, melatonin release is stimulated.
-WHEN you take it is important. Do NOT take melatonin before leaving for a trip or it will make the jet lag worse. Wait until you land in the new time zone to supplement 1 hour before normal bedtime at your new location. Continue for 3 nights or until you’ve adjusted.
b)Pycnogenol has been studied for its effect of reducing jet lag symptoms. It reduces cerebral and joint edema or swelling, which leads to less short-term memory problems, fatigue problems and cardiac issues. It has also shown to decrease deep vein thrombosis and superficial vein thrombosis, which are both common side effects of long flights.
-Take it for 3 times a day for up to 5 days (max 7 days) after landing.
Our human bodies haven’t fully adapted to travelling long distances by air… and they probably never will. So jet lag remains a part of life if you’re exposing yourself to this kind of travel. Fortunately, with proper planning and preparation, you can reduce its effects and even prevent it from happening!
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