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A Beginner's Guide to Jet Lag

Updated on January 13, 2011

Jet Lag Explained

Jet lag is fatigue or disturbance that results from the disruption of the body's normal circadium rhythm(body clock) as a result of air travel.

There is currently no cure for jet lag but what people don't realise is that there are several easy things that can be done to alleviate the symptoms. The temptation for many when going on vacation, is to begin the holiday the day before departure! Alcohol is consumed in copious amounts, quite often well into the early hours of the morning. Little time is allowed to check in and pass the numerous security checks so stress levels rise to boiling point and before you know it, you have your hands around the air hostess's neck because they only have Diet Coke!

Jet lag can be exacerbated by a number of things that should be avoided wherever possible. These include the consumption of alcohol, drinking lots of coffee and sleeping whenever the opportunity raises its head. Unfortunately, these are the very things that people like to do before, during and after long haul flights, particularly where a holiday is involved.

Many people will opt for the medication route, namely melatonin. Melatonin is a naturally produced hormone produced by the pineal gland. It regulates the 'body clock' or Circadian Rhythm and tells the body when it is night and therefore time to sleep. Taking this drug at the correct time can provide some benefits. However, melatonin is on sale 'over the counter' in the USA and many people don't have the correct instructions for use. The hormone will be effective in the following situations.

  1. Its 4am and a person wakes up bright and alert. Melatonin should be taken and the person should go straight back to sleep.
  2. It is the middle of the night at your destination, a time when you would normally be sleeping. However, you are currently flying in a time zone in daylight hours. Sleeping at this time will mean leave you refreshed for the day ahead at your destination.

Melatonin can be a little unpredictable however and for the purpose of this hub, I will be mainly examining the natural remedies available for jet lag reduction. Remember, there is no magic wand. No cure exists for jet lag but a few simple steps should reduce the effects. Common medical advice suggests that for every time zone crossed, a day is required for full recovery. This means that for a London to Los Angeles flight, eight days would be needed. Clearly, this is going to either affect work performance or eat into a precious holiday.

Jet Lag Symptoms

  1. Disorientation. The body clock is mixed up with no clear definition of what day and night is.
  2. Fatigue. Sleeping patterns are affected.
  3. Dehydration. This is exacerbated by excessive caffeine or alcohol intake. Pressurised aircraft cabins lend themselves to quicker dehydration.
  4. Irritability. Several incidents of 'air rage' have been attributed to jet lag.
  5. Nausea.
  6. Headache.
  7. Exacerbation of pre-existing ailments.

A Few Quick Jet Lag Tips

Pre Flight Checklist

  1. If you suffer from particularly sore ears with cabin pressure, take some decongestant just before you board.
  2. Leave extra time to check in and clear the various security checks. Stress can make jet lag worse!
  3. Wear comfortable loose fitting clothes. Planes are cramped and it is important to rest and feel comfortable otherwise stress can build very quickly.
  4. Drink water - and plenty of it! Plane cabins are condusive to dehydration and that's before alcohol and caffeine are consumed.
  5. Get a good night's sleep the night before. It may be the last you get for a while. Jet lag will be worse if you are run down before you even board.
  6. Eat healthily and at the right times.

In Flight Entertainment

  1. Drink more water. Enough said!
  2. Avoid alcohol.
  3. Avoid caffeinated drinks like tea, coffee and colas.
  4. Moisturise. Dehydration can affect the skin as well. Pay particular attention to the face and hands
  5. Take a lipsil or Chapstick for dry lips. They can get very sore.
  6. Set your watch to the destination time. This allows you to become accustomed to the new time zone. If it's night time at the destination, sleep.
  7. Use natural methods to get off to sleep. Take an eye mask, neck cushion, music, slippers or anything that might help you get off.
  8. Regularly stretch and walk around the cabin. This improves circulation and can help with stress and tiredness.
  9. Avoid sleeping pills. Deep Vein Thrombosis or DVT is more likely to occur.

You Have Reached Your Destination

  1. Remember what John McClain did in Die Hard. Take off your shoes and walk around barefoot for a while. This can help to reground the electromagnetic system.
  2. Take a bath with Epsom salts.
  3. Remember the golden rule! Drink lots of water. Avoid alcohol for 24 hours - if you possibly can!
  4. If you arrive during the day, stay active. Go for a walk, get some fresh air.
  5. Get into the time zone straight away. Don't just fall into bed at 10am!

You must accept that long haul flights will result in jet lag.  There is no cure, no quick fix and no way to stop it.  Jet lag can lead to more serious illnesses like depression and memory loss if care is not taken to look after yourself.  


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    • Malcolm_Cox profile image

      Malcolm_Cox 7 years ago from Newcastle, England

      Thanks Christopher, that's great info to have on this hub!

    • profile image

      Christopher 7 years ago

      Malcolm try using 5HTP it is a substance in the Melatonin hormone production chain. It is also safer to use. The European Pineal Society conducted research on the possible use of Melatonin as a contraceptive and one of the researcher's experiments noted that Melatonin shrank hamsters testicles !

      The reason to connect to the electromagnetic field of the Earth is because of the inexhaustible amount of negative ions the Earth gives off. In many ways this is the KEY to Jet Lag. Getting negative electrons in the body through diet, or gadgets will help you cure Jet Lag.

    • Malcolm_Cox profile image

      Malcolm_Cox 7 years ago from Newcastle, England

      I get pretty severe jet lag. Melatonin is impossible to get in the uk!

    • BrianS profile image

      Brian Stephens 7 years ago from Castelnaudary, France

      I have used Melatonin which as you rightly say I could only get in the States. I also used it incorrectly taking it when I went to bed, well you live and learn. Handy little hub this, thanks for sharing.