It’s hard to scoot around Harrods trying to look glam when all you want to do is go to bed in your jammies. Jet lag can do this to you. Although humans have always been travellers, we never suffered from boat-lag, car-lag or horse-lag. It’s only since planes have allowed us to move so fast that our brain might know we are in London during the day, but our body feels like it is night time in LA. Jet lag occurs when your body clock ‘lags’ behind (or in front) of local time.
- Sleepiness in the daytime.
- Impaired judgment.
What causes it?
- Jet lag occurs when you cross time zones. Journeys going east are more difficult to adjust to than westward journeys. You can avoid jet lag completely if you only travel north to south, up and down along the same time zone – although this does limit your holiday choices and business destinations! The reason for the lag is that our body follows a 24-hour routine, known as the circadian rhythm. Body temperature drops at night, which is when we prefer to sleep. We urinate more during the day and hormones fluctuate according to the time within the 24-hour cycle. This all gets thrown out the window when you cross several time zones in just a few hours. With jet lag, your body clock doesn’t know whether it’s day or night, Arthur or Martha.
- Jet lag is made worse by travel fatigue. Sitting down for many hours in seats designed by Lego, squished side-by-side like a can of sardines, your muscles are bound to cramp and tire. Even sardines get to lie down.
- Reduced oxygen in the aircraft cabin can also play havoc with your wellbeing.
What to do
Jet lag remedies are like bad jokes: everyone has one. The following have proved helpful to frequent travellers and airline staff.
- Eat lightly. Choose salads and vegetables. Avoid heavy meals and creamy, spicy and rich food.
- Eat meals according to your destination’s time zone. Most airlines adjust the meals to reflect this, which is why you might find yourself eating breakfast at 1 am.
- If you’re not hungry. Don’t eat. There is no rule that says you have to eat every meal that is served. Often it’s due to boredom rather than hunger.
- The air circulating in planes is as dry as a chip. Dehydration can increase jet lag, so ensure that you drink plenty of water – 200 ml per hour at least.
- Drink no more than a glass of wine with dinner – except French champagne, see below – as alcohol is a diuretic, causing you to become even more dehydrated. It can also disrupt sleeping patterns.
- Drink coffee only when it is morning time at your destination.
- To help you sleep at night, try a herbal tablet, tincture or tea containing valerian, passionflower, hops, Californian poppy and/or chamomile.
- To help you stay alert in the morning, try a herbal preparation containing Siberian or Korean ginseng, gotu kola and/or damiana.
- Melatonin, a hormone produced by the pineal gland in the brain, helps to balance out our circadian rhythms. Take a tablet an hour before you wish to sleep. You may need to see your doctor for a script in some countries. Homoeopathic Melatonin may also prove helpful.
- The homoeopathic remedy, arnica, is terrific for jet lag – take a dose every couple of hours.
- If you suffer from anxiety when flying, take some Bach Rescue Remedy as well as the herb, kava.
- If you are prone to water retention, take a 100 mg tablet of vitamin B6 with each meal.
- Deep vein thrombosis is a very real threat for those who take long-haul flights. A blood clot can form, usually in the calf, which may result in a potentially fatal pulmonary embolism. Vitamin E, gingko biloba, butcher’s broom and a remedy made from Japanese natto miso, nattokinase, can help. Take singly or in combination for a few days before and after your journey.
- Sitting in a crowded plane increases your chance of catching a cold. To prevent this from happening, take echinacea for a week before, as well as during, your flight.
- The trick is to set your watch to the time of your destination as soon as you embark. This means that you try and sleep when it is night-time at your destination and eat at your destination’s meal times.
- The downside to drinking water is the need to urinate, which can be inconvenient when you are in the middle seat. However, the trip to the loo can double as ‘exercise’.
- For flights over 6-7 hours, you will need to exercise to prevent swelling of the ankles and legs and prevent ‘economyclassitis’ (also known as deep vein thrombosis, a potentially fatal condition that comes from being cramped in a confined space for hours). Most airlines offer a set of exercises on information sheets or via their onboard entertainment system. At the very least, wear comfortable shoes and every hour or so stretch and scrunch your toes. In addition, rotate your ankles clockwise and counter-clockwise hourly, as well as standing and walking when you are able.
- If it is sunny when you arrive, stay outside for an hour or so, without sunglasses. This is to allow the sunlight to hit the retina, be registered by the pineal gland and promote the production of natural melatonin.
- Gentle exercise, moving your legs and compression stockings can all help prevent DVT.
- When you arrive, if it is night-time, take a hot bath with lavender oil.
- If you have the time, try to break up your journey with overnight stops. This will greatly reduce jet-lag and your bank balance.
- Travel first class. French champagne is known to prevent jet lag and travel fatigue. Dosage: one glass per hour. When sleepy, snuggle in between those crisp white sheets and remember your earplugs to help reduce the bleating sounds from cattle class.
- Exercise for twenty to forty minutes as soon as you can after arriving at your destination. Swimming is the best exercise, preferably in the sunshine. Shopping is not exercise.
- Meditate regularly during the flight. Many people swear that meditating banishes jet lag.
- Sitting for hours and hours can lead to water retention and bloating. Don’t wear tight-fitting clothes or shoes, walk around, and if possible put your feet up.
To deter jet lag, the goal is to promote alertness, energy, strength, stamina and balance within the nervous system. Blend the following essential oils with 10 ml of jojoba oil or 10 ml of coconut oil. Use as a needed throughout and after the journey.
Alternatively, this blend can be combined with purified water and an essential oil solubiliser and used as a personal spritzer.
- 7 drops of peppermint oil – alertness, strength
- 6 drops of rosemary CT Cineole oil – mental fatigue, balance, strength
- 4 drops of black pepper oil – focus, strength and stamina
- 3 drops of geranium oil – balance, uplifting, energising
At a glance
- Avoid large, rich and spicy meals, sticking to salads and lighter snacks.
- Eat according to your destination’s time zone. Breakfast at their breakfast time.
- If you are not hungry, miss a meal.
- Drink 200 ml of water every hour to avoid dehydration.
- An hour before bedtime – remember this is the bedtime of your destination – take sleeping herbs such as valerian, passionflower, hops, Californian poppy and chamomile.
- The natural hormone melatonin can be helpful, take an hour before bedtime.
- In the morning, take some energy herbs including Siberian or Korean ginseng, gotu kola and/or damiana.
- To avoid deep vein thrombosis, take vitamin E, ginkgo biloba, butcher’s broom and/or nattokinase a few days before, during and after your flight.
- If you are an anxious flyer, take kava and some Bach Rescue Remedy.
- To avoid getting a cold, take some echinacea before and during your flight.
- As soon as you embark, adjust your watch to the time of your destination. This will give your brain, at least, the heads up about the new time zones, allowing your body to catch up a little quicker.
- Wear comfortable shoes and loose-fitting clothes that allow you to stretch and exercise can help prevent DVT.
- When you arrive at your destination in the daytime, exercise for 20–40 minutes, preferably in the sunshine.
- If it’s night-time when you arrive, take a warm bath with lavender oil.
- Meditation reduces the effect of jetlag.
- See also Motion Sickness.