Whether it’s for business or pleasure, who wants to waste their trip adjusting to a new time zone?
What Is Jet Lag?
Jet lag occurs after air travel across several time zones. It’s caused by the body’s circadian rhythms being out of sync with the local destination time.
Symptoms Of Jet Lag
- restlessness when over-tired
- waking mid-sleep
- sleep interruptions
- emotional and mental stress
- constant nausea
- anticipatory fears
- inability to adapt to new surroundings
- digestive problems
- bloating and gas
How Long Does It Last?
Count on about one day to adjust to each time zone crossed. For example, a flight from New York to London crosses 5 time zones, so it would take roughly 5 days to recover. Traveling eastward, such as from the United States to Europe or from Europe to Asia, generally causes more severe jet lag than traveling westward.
Natural Remedies For Jet Lag
Melatonin is a hormone secreted by the pineal gland in the brain. One of melatonin’s key jobs is controlling the body’s circadian rhythm – our internal clock that plays an important role in when we fall asleep and when we wake up.
Melatonin release is tied to the amount of light there is. When it gets dark at night and we turn out the lights, melatonin release is stimulated. Light suppresses melatonin release. When we cross time zones and are suddenly exposed to excessive light, when it’s normally our bedtime (even a three-hour time difference can do it), our melatonin cycles are disrupted and we experience jet lag until our circadian rhythms adjust to the new environment. Melatonin supplements are thought to help the body quickly adjust to the new surroundings. Although it is found in 30 mg pills, most practitioners agree that the lowest dose possible should be used and it should only be taken for a short time. There have been no studies on the long-term safety of melatonin. Higher doses may cause side effects such as vivid dreams and nightmares. Besides, a Rush University study found no difference between 0.5 mg and 3 mg melatonin.
For jet lag, practitioners generally suggest taking a 0.5 mg tablet of melatonin a night for three nights, one hour before normal bedtime. Research suggests that taking it after reaching the travel destination is sufficient, and that starting melatonin supplements prior to or during air travel may actually slow the recovery of jet lag, energy, and alertness.
Adjusting Sleep And Wake Time
Another strategy to avoid jet lag involves adjusting a person’s bedtime and wake time to the destination time prior to traveling. It is generally started prior to travel and involves waking up and going to bed one hour progressively earlier/later (depending on which way you’re traveling) each day for three days.
If traveling eastward, this means going to sleep one hour earlier than normal on day one and waking up one hour earlier. On day two, bedtime would be two hours earlier and wake time would be two hours later. On the third day, bedtime would be three hours earlier and wake time would be three hours earlier.
If traveling westward, bedtime would be one hour later than normal and wake time would be one hour later than normal and it would also increase progressively each day.
If it’s not possible to follow this gradual schedule, some readers suggest pre-adjusting to the new time zone a day in advance by setting your watch to your destination time the day before you travel and preconditioning yourself to the new time. If it is six hours later at your travel destination, this means waking up six hours earlier the day you travel and then going to sleep when it is nighttime at your destination.
If you simply must nap, seasoned travelers suggest limiting naps to no more than an hour.
Homeopathic remedies are small vials of tiny pellets. They are made from minute dosages of naturally occurring substances which, in much larger doses, would produce the same symptoms in healthy people similar to those of the condition or disease. Homeopathic remedies are diluted to the point that they are no longer detectable, so they are believed to be non-toxic or affect the way other medications are metabolized.
The most popular homeopathic remedy for Jet Lag is a product called No Jet Lag. It is available in health foods stores and some grocery stores, drug stores, and airport convenience stores. Some readers swear by it. ‘No jet lag’ contains the homeopathic remedies arnica montana (Leopard’s bane), bellis perennis (Daisy), Chamomilla (Wild chamomile), Ipecacuanha (Ipecac), and Lycopodium (Clubmoss). Remember that homeopathic remedies are specially prepared and that regular, non-homeopathic doses of these substances can be toxic if taken internally.
Homeopaths say that ‘No Jet Lag’ will only work if jet lag symptoms match the profiles of these remedies. Other jet lag remedies, which can be purchased individually in health food stores and some drug stores, may be a closer match. For example, Cocculus indicus is used for people who say they are “too tired to sleep”. They may feel weak, dizzy, irritable, and have trouble concentrating.
For all homeopathic remedies, follow the instructions on the vial or consult a homeopath for specific instructions.
Valerian is a herb used as a natural sleep aid. For jet lag, it is used to help adjust to new time zones by helping people fall asleep at their desired time. Unlike other sleep aids, valerian is not believed to be addictive or cause grogginess the next morning.
A Study on Effects Of Caffeine And Melatonin On Jet Lag
In the never-ending search for a cure for jet lag, researchers may have finally found something to ease the sleep problems that accompany international travel. Or have they? A new study shows two of most popular substances used to combat jet lag, caffeine and melatonin, a hormone, may provide mixed blessings for people who suffer from the common condition.
For example, a new slow-release version of caffeine may help you stay awake during the day, but it may also keep you up at night. And melatonin may help you sleep at night, but it won’t keep you from dozing off in daytime hours.
In the study, researchers tested the effects of slow-release caffeine and melatonin on three groups of nine U.S. Air Force Reservists. Each of the men and women typically went to bed between 11 p.m. and midnight and slept about 6.5-7.5 hours. For five days, the reservists had identical routines at their Texas base. Then they boarded a plane for France and were not allowed to sleep during the flight, which crossed seven time zones. Each group received either slow-release caffeine (300 mg at 8 a.m.), 5 mg of melatonin starting the evening before the flight and for the next four evenings, or a placebo.
Researchers found both drugs had positive effects in relieving some common symptoms of jet lag after an eastbound flight. The slow-release caffeine helped alleviate daytime sleepiness, but it also had some unwanted side effects by reducing the quality of nighttime sleep. In contrast, melatonin users experienced better quality sleep but still felt sleepy during the day.
Researchers say some of the beneficial effects of the drugs may have been reduced because the participants were deprived of sleep during the flight. They say more studies are needed to fully understand the effects of these drugs in relieving jet lag.