By Duellyn Pandis, RN Passport Health of Tampa Bay, Florida
The root cause of jet lag is the disruption of the body’s circadian physiologic rhythm, which is the internal 24-hour cycle that regulates a person’s normal waking and sleeping periods. Specific symptoms include: insomnia, daytime sleepiness, fatigue, poor concentration, slowed reflexes, indigestion, hunger at odd hours, irritability, depression, lack of resistance to infections, muscle aches, mood disturbances, loss of mental efficiency, and headaches.
Here are a few tips that may keep jet lag on the runway:
• Nap: A single 70- to 120-minute nap taken prior to the flight can reduce the decline in alertness over the subsequent 24-hour period. After you arrive, try to take a short nap after lunchtime.
• Stay up to Midnight: For the first two or three days at your destination, try to stay up to midnight to merge with the body’s natural free-running rhythms.
• Get Outdoors: Sunlight is an excellent way to reset your internal body clock to coincide with local time.
• Go Local: Set your watch according to the local time when you board the plane and act accordingly— eat and sleep on the schedule of your destination.
• Drink Water/Avoid Caffeine and Alcohol: Because airplane cabins have low humidity and a majority of recycled air, dehydration is prevalent among airplane travelers.
• Pack A Healthy Snack: Ditch the peanuts and soda.
• Exercise: Sitting for hours immobile in pre-flight is a bad strategy. It’s not too late to even exercise at the gate. Regular exercise before and after a flight will make the adjustment easier.
• Melatonin is also an option, follow the direction on the bottle and try before you fly to find the right dose.
There are other jet lag ‘solutions’-- Some of the possibilities include: specific diets; pressure point treatments; sleeping aids (e.g., blindfolds, ear plugs, neck rests, and blow-up pillows); Absolutely do not take jet lag and sleeping pills. Perhaps the best antidote to jet lag for travelers is merely to remember that this is supposed to be fun—so slow down and acclimate. That way, you’re sure to see the world with your eyes wide open.