Traveling, whether for work or pleasure, often causes distress on our bodies’ systems. You're probably no stranger to it - the discomfort you feel can make you dread your vacation and keep you from relaxing the way you should. But how do you fight jet lag or avoid it altogether?
What is Jet Lag?
Jet lag is a beast with many heads: insomnia, fatigue, nausea, but in the end it boils down to a disruption of the body's internal clock, also known as its circadian rhythm. A person suffering from jet lag can experience difficulty sleeping, constipation, diarrhea, nausea, headaches, anxiety, difficulty concentrating and more.
It's usually asoociated with the body’s inability to adjust to a new time zone, a function regulated by the brain. The hypothalamus, located just above the brainstem, releases hormones that stop and start the production of other hormones in the body. These hormones are responsible for many important bodily functions, like hunger, thirst, sleep and more. The hypothalamus also regulates the hormones produced through the perception of light and dark, causing your body to release certain hormones during the day and others at night. When you're traveling, these times are altered, altering the hormones that are released throughout your body. For example, the hypothalamus releases hormones for digestion when someone is usually sleeping, causing discomfort when done at hours that the body is not used to.
Steps You Can Take to Fight Jet Lag
Although jet lag can’t always be avoided, there are steps you can take to alleviate some of its symptoms.
1. Adapt to the schedule of your new time zone.
Travelling can be exhausting, and once you arrive in a new destination the hotel bed can be tempting, but try and stay awake until an appropriate bedtime, if possible. If you're really exhausted, a 20-minute nap can do wonders, but make sure you don’t sleep through your alarm! This will ensure you are able to fall asleep when you're supposed to.
2. Stay hydrated.
Drink plenty of water before, during and after your flight to avoid dehydration. Water can help avoid the many side effects that come with travelling, such as dry skin, headaches and dry nose and throat.
3. Avoid coffee and alcohol.
Avoid coffee and alcohol before, during and after your flight. Both coffee and alcohol can make you dehydrated and affect your sleep schedule. The effects of alcohol are also stronger in the air than on the ground (due to altitude changes), so it should be avoided to reduce the chances of nausea while flying.
Exercise not only helps you stay fit, but can help your body fight jet lag. Exercising in the morning can help you wake up and exercising a few hours before bed can help you fall asleep, tiring you out.
5. Eat properly.
Eat lighter meals until your body adjusts to your new time zone and avoid stressing out your stomach and digestive system. Smaller meals throughout the day can keep your metabolism going and help you avoid constipation.
6. Spend time outside.
A good dose of vitamin D is a great tool to help overcome jet lag! The sunlight helps your body reset to your new time zone.