Friday, April 10, 2009

jet lag

We're back from our vacation, enjoying the memories of all the things we saw, all the places we visited, all the meals we enjoyed. Not enjoying the laundry and the jet lag. 

Jet lag is a condition that occurs when you travel across several time zones; obviously flying can take you across quite a number of them.  When you cross a number of time zones in a relatively short period of time your natural circadian rhythms (the approximately 24 hour body cycle) are disrupted.  

Symptoms of jet lag can include nausea, headache, fatigue, digestive problems and insomnia.  I find that going eastward causes more disruption than traveling westward.  We adjusted to our eastward travel by taking a short nap as soon as we arrived, sleeping with a nightlight on (this is supposed to be effective for tricking the brain into believing it is moonlight and somehow helping to reset faster), drinking lots of water (especially necessary since air travel tends to be rather dehydrating on the system) and eating smaller, more frequent meals for the first couple of days.  I also doubled up on my probiotics since digestive issues tend to be a problem for me.  

There are natural remedies that are believed to be helpful in countering the effects of jet lag with melatonin being the most commonly used.  I personally prefer valerian as I find it works better for me at not only helping me get to sleep, but in staying asleep as I try to adjust to the new time zone.  Chamomile tea is also believed to be effective in helping you relax before the new bedtime.  Obviously avoiding stimulants or suppressants such as caffeine or alcohol can go a long way toward helping the body adjust more quickly.

On the westward journey to return home we followed all of the above with the exception of the nap.  For some reason it seems to be easier to force ourselves to stay up late until at least 2-3 hours before our "normal" bedtime.  Although we found ourselves up early at 5 AM the next morning it felt closer to our regular schedule even though we had only been back for one day.  

If you do find yourself traveling across multiple time zones remember that jet lag is generally believed to require one day for each hour of time difference to fully adjust to the new local time with 12 hours being the maximum amount of disruption.

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