Kristina Viniar offers personalized wellness coaching for women. For more information, go to www.kristinaviniar.com, or give her a call at (512) 609-0031.
The holidays are coming up and you might want to use this time for a little holiday vacation and preferably nowhere near your current time zone. Somewhere tropical and exotic perhaps where you’re sitting on the beach, while someone serves you up a freshly-cut coconut.
However, nothing puts a damper into the start of your vacation like jet lag. You know, that groggy feeling, possible headaches and uncontrollable sleepiness and fatigue – all consequences of covering several time zones in a matter of hours. How far you travel, where you go, what you drink, along with other factors can determine how quickly you can recover from jet lag. Read on to learn more about what science says we should do and my tried and true tips on leaving jet lag behind.
Jet lag is a common condition for travelers who cross several time zones and is especially difficult to adjust for those going eastward rather than westward. In a 2016 study on jet lag, scientists identified that this difference in recovery time has to do with how our biological clock, or circadian rhythm functions. The cells in our body don’t quite operate on a 24 hour schedule like we thought. Instead, the cell’s cycle is about 24.5 hours long. This small change allows for easier travel when we’re going into the direction that extends the length of the day, which is westward. However, when we travel east and skip several time zones, it makes it challenging for our internal clock to catch up.
The severity and the duration of your symptoms of jet lag depends on several factors such as your general physical health, hydration status, age, alcohol and caffeine consumption and what you do upon arriving at your destination.
Here are some of my favorite tips on the do’s and don’ts of traveling across multiple time zones and how to feel your best when you get to your destination.
Prior to departure:
When traveling east, DO start training your body by going to be earlier. Look up the local time at your destination and little by little, start adding more sleep to your nights. If you’re going west, just do the opposite and go to bed a little later.
DO bring a large water bottle with you on the plane and keep hydrated before, during and after your departure. More on this later.
DON’T stay up all night packing and then get on the plate exhausted. People rarely get a good night’s sleep while in flight and it will put you at a greater disadvantage upon arrival.
DO stay hydrated. The pressurized cabin contributes to dehydration in addition to travelers simply forgetting to drink water while in transit. It’s very important to stay hydrated in order to promote rest, recovery, counter the effects of cabin pressure and poor circulation.
DO avoid excessive caffeine and alcohol while in flight. As tempting as an open bar may sound, both caffeine and alcohol dehydrate your body and disrupt sleep patterns. Save it for when you arrive at your destination. Plus, let’s be honest with ourselves. In-flight drinks aren’t that great to begin with.
DO try and sleep on the plane if it’s nighttime at your destination and stay awake if it’s daytime. If it’s night-time, DO use blue-blocking glasses which will help your body’s natural melatonin production and protect your eyes from TV and computer screens that keep you awake. You may also try an eye mask and ear plugs to help you sleep.
DO get up to stretch and move around regularly, especially if it’s daytime at your destination. Not only will you avoid the body pains and general crankiness associated with sitting for a long time, but you’ll feel energized when you arrive. I always find a way to get some movement in during long flights and my body feels much better afterwards. You can set a phone reminder to go off every hour and get up to walk around the plane or get your stretches in by the galley. More often than not, the flight attendants don’t mind. In fact, I have never had a flight attendant ask me to stop stretching or squatting and take my seat. Yes, I have done squats, push-ups, lunges and stretches on an aircraft before. You should give it a try too.
DO bring some healthy snacks with you. Digestion can be a challenge while in flight and several days after, so make sure you have foods that are easy on your stomach. Personally, I never travel without my greens powder, probiotics, digestive enzymes and a few other go-to’s for optimal gut health.
DO get your bare feet into the ground as quickly as possible. You can walk barefoot on a patch of grass, on soil, on the beach or lake or you can use your own grounding mat if you have one. Grounding as a practice is currently being actively studied by science. When you ground, you connect to the earth’s electrical charge which has beneficial health effects. Such effects include the reduction of stress and inflammation, resetting your circadian clock and improvement in sleep.
DO get some sunshine, eat a healthy meal and get some exercise at your first opportunity. If you arrive in the morning or afternoon, I suggest going for a walk or doing some yoga a the park shortly after checking into your hotel. If you arrive in the evening, follow the local schedule and then proceed with the exercise and sunshine the next morning.
DO use natural sleep remedies like herbal teas, tinctures or melatonin drops if you’re struggling with sleep. A combination of staying away from electronic devices after sundown, a hot bath or shower and soothing teas may help you get some sleep and reset your circadian clock.
Overall Advice for Travelers:
The best way to minimize jet lag is to lead a healthy lifestyle where you get plenty of rest, exercise and nutritious food. This way, all of the above mentioned tips are already part of your daily routine and all you have left to do is to enjoy your vacation. If nothing else, stay hydrated and get plenty of quality sleep during your travels to feel your best regardless of where your vacation takes you.