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How to Cure Jet Lag

Updated on July 22, 2014

Build you own Anti - Jetlag kit for your travels!

If you are going to take a trip and will be faced with jet lag, this information will help you recover quickly. These remedies will also help you if you have to work odd shifts or have on and off night and day shifts, which has the same result on your system as flying between time zones.

Years ago, I suffered a lot because I thought diet was the only way to control jet lag, and that wasn't appealing. Because I have now had years of experience adjusting to big time zone changes - my usual trip is as far as you can go, 12 time zones - I recover quickly. Sometimes, I don't notice much at all. So I am going to share my years of experience here, in the hopes that it will help you when you are faced with jet lag. By the way - this will help you if you have to work odd shifts or have on and off night and day shifts too.

If you don't do anything to help your jet lag, it will take one day for each time zone you traveled for you to recover. That means that if you are from New York and go to visit China, which is 13 time zones away, it will take almost 13 days to recover. But with some smart planning, you can recover much faster. In this lens are quite a few tricks for you to try to speed up your shift work and/or jet lag recovery. Do read all the way to the bottom of this lens. There is no fluff here. I have tried all these and they make a difference. I hope my experience will help you. Good luck to you, and safe travels!

What should your Anti-jetlag kit have in it?

This is what keeps me from having bad jet lag when I travel:

Melatonin - 1 mg tablets that dissolve under your tongue

Homeopathic Rescue Remedy - Sleep

Homeopathic Moon Drops

Sleep Music with brainwave entrainment

Melatonin - The ones that dissolve under your tongue are best

Melatonin is perhaps the most important piece of your anti-jet lag kit. Some of my friends complain that it gives them a headache. When Melatonin was first used for jet lag many years ago, the doctors said you should take 3 mg. That gave a lot of people headaches, including me. Now the recommendation is 1 mg. I have found that I can bite a tiny sliver off the 1 mg. pill, and it works just as well.

So if you tried melatonin previously and got a headache from it, try taking a tiny bite off a 1 mg pill, and see if you still get a headache. It works for me. Maybe it would work for you. At any rate, such a small amount won't hurt anyone. And - just so I have said it - if you do have some real problem with it, see your doctor. This is not medical advice - just sharing my own experience!

Homeopathic Remedies - A gentle way to fall asleep

Did you know that Queen Elizabeth's mother is said to have always used homeopathic medicine for her ailments? You may not be familiar with homeopathic medicine, but you should try it. It works for our family really well, and should not affect other medicines you take. Of course, check with your doctor if you have any questions. They are all "over the counter" remedies. I use this if I wake up in the middle of the night. If you can't use melatonin, this is a good second choice to take at bedtime.

Sleep Music - Specially engineered to help you sleep deeply

Sleep music is a special kind of music that has certain rhythms embedded into it, either a heartbeat rhythm, or sleep brainwave frequencies in the "Delta" range. When you listen to this music, your brain naturally picks up the sleep rhythms, and soon you are asleep. It is a fantastic way to help you get to sleep. I have heard them all. These are my favorites:

Music To Promote Sleep
Music To Promote Sleep

Another great album!

 
Delta Sleep System
Delta Sleep System

The grandfather of them all.

 
Native American Flute Lullabies
Native American Flute Lullabies

This one is free, and very lovely. Wonderful for children, and also for adults! It does not contain the sleep frequencies, but it is so soothing that you will soon be sleeping like a baby. If you have kids, give this one a try.

 

What is the official name for jet lag and what does it tell us?

Desynchronosis

Maybe you know the word synchronized, as in Synchronized Swimming, the Olympic sport? Syn means "with" and chronos means "time."

When things are synchronized, they are going on at the same time. That is the way we are when we are at home on a regular schedule. When we go to another time zone, our bodies are confused by the change in time, because when the brain thinks it is time to eat breakfast, it isn't that time at all. When the brain is ready to sleep and producing sleep hormones, we may be in the middle of our new time zone's day. When you have to adjust to time changes, you feel badly, and your body can really protest not eating at the regular time or sleeping when your body things it is bedtime. You feel fuzzy, have a headache, or might even feel nauseous. This is jet lag.

Your body sets itself up a rhythm, called a "circadian rhythm," so that it is aware of when it is night and day, and makes the right hormones and other things you need for waking up, eating, and sleeping. If you do shift work, or fly across more than a few time zones, the brain's clock will be out of sync with the time at your destination. Your brain thinks it is the middle of the night, but the sun may in fact be rising. All the hormones and natural changes in your body temperature will be upset. This is in part because your brain reacts when there is strong sunlight. Of course, the body will adjust, because we are adjustable, but it may take time. That is why we have jet lag.

How jet lagged can I get?

The longer the trip, the worse the jet lag?

On one trip I was chatting with a seatmate on the airplane with a woman who had traveled from further west in Asia than I had. I commented to her that our trip from Beijing was as difficult as it gets for jet lag, since it was halfway around the earth. She looked at me scornfully and said, "I have traveled through 18 time zones, so I have traveled farther than you have, and it will take me much longer to get over jet lag than you!"

I tried to explain that how long you traveled isn't what affects jet lag, but she never understood. In fact, what matters is not the length of your trip, but how far away you are from your destination in time zones. If you fly from Argentina or some other city at the far end of South America, to San Francisco, you will spend hours on the airplane, but you may not change time zones at all. This trip will affect you, because it is a stress to spend hours on an airplane. But you won't have jet lag, because you will be in the same time zone. Jet lag is not affected by the length of your flight. It is affected by how far you have traveled east to west. Crossing the International Date line does not affect it either. The worst jet lag you can get is 12 hours.

How many time zones does the earth have?

The earth has 39 time zones, but this is because different countries create their own time zone system for convenience. Geographers divide the earth into 24 time zones, one for every hour in the day. The zones are about 15 degrees of longitude, which are about 69 miles wide (111 km) at the fattest part of the earth, the equator. The zones get thinner as you move north or south towards the poles, because the earth is round.

A poll! Need your input on Jet lag remedies - What works for you?

Have you tried any of these? Are you planning on going someplace in a different time zone soon? Which one will you try?

Which jet lag remedy has worked for you?

See results
Spaghetti is for Sleep!
Spaghetti is for Sleep!

Prepare with your diet

I would be remiss if I didn't say something about diet and jet lag, but it is my least favorite method to use.

The basic idea is to give your system plenty of protein to use in the day and high carbohydrate meals at night.

Have you ever crashed after a big meal of spaghetti? After you eat a lot of carbohydrates, your blood sugar rises. Then your pancreas puts out a lot of insulin, and your blood sugar falls, sometimes quite rapidly. That is when you will feel very sleepy.

If you are on a business trip, this may be a life saver for you. Stick with protein meals until you know you will be able to sleep. Then have a meal that is high in carbs. You will feel tired almost right away! Don't be far from your bed!

Light therapy - Good choice for shift workers - Wake up your brain in the morning!

Strong sunlight signals your brain that it is morning. This will help reset your body's system. My little brother uses one of these.

Green light glasses for jet lag?

Check out the Re-Timer!

What is the Re-Timer? It is a wearable green light device that gives off a soft green light, much like sunglasses, but not quite. The soft green light is emitted by the glasses onto your eyes, and you can wear the glasses even when you are reading or doing computer work. Green light has a specific wavelength which is effective in changing our body clocks to a different schedule. This one is good for both jet lag and also people who work in shifts.

Staying awake when you need to...

The other side of jet lag

Sometimes you have to stay awake even though you have jet lag. Like today, not even 24 hours of my arrival in China, in the two meetings I had this afternoon after a lovely lunch in a warm and cozy setting. Needless to say, it was hard to keep my eyes open. After you travel, staying awake can be a more difficult problem than sleeping. I have the secret cure in my knapsack. It's called the iPad. iPad? Yes, that is right.

Part of the body's sleep mechanism depends on light hitting your eyes signaling your brain to "wake up." The traditional way to get that light is by taking a walk in the sunshine, but sometimes that is not possible. Another strong light source is your iPad screen, which can provide the light necessary to let your brain know that you don't want to be sleeping.

If you are willing to play a few minutes of an exciting game on an iPad for 5 - 10 minutes, this should be enough to get you past your need for sleep, in part due to the adrenalin that an exciting game will generate, in part due to the strong light near your eyes, which stops the production of your sleep hormones. My iPad, a gift from a friend, is now one of the most important parts of my "anti-jetlag" kit for keeping awake in the day.

Some other jet lag remedies to try

I have given you my four favorites, but here are more. You never know what may help you.

  1. Cherry Juice Drink some cherry juice before bed. It not only helps you sleep better, but will help you sleep longer. This has been proven in scientific studies. The best cherry juice for this is made from Montmorency Tart Cherries.

    See a summary of the research here. I love Cherry Juice. You can get concentrate and just put a teaspoon or two in a small glass of water. This is a really yummy jet lag recovery solution.

  2. Yoga Poses Do you like yoga? There are good yoga poses that help you sleep. My friend and Yoga Expert Lulu has searched through many poses to find the best for helping you sleep and posted them on www.yogarelieftips.com.
  3. Computer Screen Light Adjustment Software - It's called F.lux And yes, there is a dot between the F and the lux. Sometimes your cell phone or computer can be what is keeping you awake. If you stare at the screen, it is like signaling your brain that it is morning, no matter what time of day it is. Some people turn their computers off at sunset if they are really sensitive. I am like that. If I used my IPad at night, I was finished - bright eyed and completely awake for hours. BUT - there is something called F.lux that adjusts your computer screen's output of light so that it won't interfere with your sleep. All you have to do is tell the program where you are, and F.lux will adjust your screen to have sunlight settings in the day and warm orange light like the lights in your home at night during the evening hours. This software works like a charm! Click here. to visit the site.

Have you ever had jet lag or worked a job with a night shift? - What has your experience been?

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    • Max Globe profile image

      Max Globe 4 years ago

      Thanks for these tips

    • Elyn MacInnis profile image
      Author

      Elyn MacInnis 4 years ago from Shanghai, China

      @deforst: Just make sure you don't take too much. Sometimes just a little works better than the regular amount.

    • deforst profile image

      deforst 4 years ago

      I do suffer with jet lag, especially on a long trip from the UK to Australia, and have never tried melatonin...perhaps I will next time!?

    • goldenrulecomics profile image

      goldenrulecomics 4 years ago

      People in my office swear by melatonin

    • Elyn MacInnis profile image
      Author

      Elyn MacInnis 4 years ago from Shanghai, China

      @anonymous: This is a great tip. My problem is that I am always stressed out from preparing to leave, so I am worse than exhausted when I hit the plane. No way to not sleep! I guess the maxim of "everyone is different" applies here. I sleep on the plane and sleep when I get there too!

    • Elyn MacInnis profile image
      Author

      Elyn MacInnis 4 years ago from Shanghai, China

      @TwistedWiseman: I think the night shift sounds awesome!

    • DIY Mary profile image

      DIY Mary 5 years ago

      Traveling East and crossing more than one time zone is what is the hardest on me. Thanks for your great tips!

    • Elyn MacInnis profile image
      Author

      Elyn MacInnis 5 years ago from Shanghai, China

      @TwistedWiseman: Sounds good to me! That is a great way to avoid jet lag...

    • TwistedWiseman profile image

      TwistedWiseman 5 years ago

      I am loving the night shift :D The boss is sleeping and we finish work faster and go home early :D

    • xriotdotbiz lm profile image

      xriotdotbiz lm 5 years ago

      I try to stay up as much as possible before flights so I can sleep on the plane. Seems to work.

    • profile image

      anonymous 5 years ago

      This is a really top lens, so well done you. I travel a fair bit, but I usually try to adjust to the timezone I am heading for the day before leaving. When the flight takes off I am NEVER one of those people who hunker down and go to sleep - I will sleep when it is time to sleep according to the place I'm heading for. So while the aircraft is full of sleeping people who will be jetlagged and waste the first two days of their holiday, I am ready to hit the ground running - or to go straight to bed, depending on the local time.

    • profile image

      anonymous 5 years ago

      I worked a 12 hour graveyard shift at one time, that was tough!:)

    • DrBillSmithWriter profile image

      William Leverne Smith 5 years ago from Hollister, MO

      It seem to both me a lot. Lucky, perhaps. BTW, thanks for stopping my my lenses! ;-)

    • profile image

      anonymous 5 years ago

      I could never understand why my kids would fly back from Malaysia to the UK and not suffer too much, but I would do a flight over half the distance, from US to UK and be struggling badly with Jet lag!

    • profile image

      Terrie_Schultz 5 years ago

      I have taken two trips from California to Europe in the past few years, and I found that if I schedule my flights so I arrive in the morning, and then stay up all day sightseeing (not a problem because I am so excited to be there) then go to bed at a normal time, I will be completely adjusted to the new time zone. On the way home, I sleep on the plane quite a bit.

    • profile image

      squeedunk 5 years ago

      An essential lens. Liked it. Would like twice if I could. Thanks again for another informative lens Elyn!

    • profile image

      Xixilater 5 years ago

      I've experienced both! Argh! It's so terrible when your body's rhythm gets confused...I think the worst with jetlag is that feeling of how you simply just can't keep your eyes open, even though it's not time to sleep! Fabulous lens with all kinds of helpful suggestions on what to do, what to try...thanks elynmac!!!

    • Lee Hansen profile image

      Lee Hansen 5 years ago from Vermont

      Two round trips from Boston to Tokyo were my most significant jet lag experiences. Trying to be alert and attentive at a business meeting after that type of journey is a genuine challenge. Other trips between the US East and West coasts or to Europe weren't as difficult but definitely tiring. Glad I'm no longer in that job!

    • Daphsam LM profile image

      Daphsam LM 5 years ago

      I have jet lag when traveling. I get so exhausted and rapid heart beat when changing time zones. What helps me is drinking tons of water and extra sleep the night before traveling. Thank you for your wonderful ideas!

    • artbyrodriguez profile image

      Beverly Rodriguez 5 years ago from Albany New York

      So nice to meet you through this very well written and informative lens.

    • mbgphoto profile image

      Mary Beth Granger 5 years ago from O'Fallon, Missouri, USA

      Lots of good tips here.

    • profile image

      anonymous 5 years ago

      I do some pretty weird shifts but I think that my body has gotten use to it now, my other half is a paramedic so you can imagine the shifts that he does. I always try to use natural things, I enjoyed your tips and this articule

    • girlfriendfactory profile image

      girlfriendfactory 5 years ago

      Great tips! Several of these I'd never heard of, like the cherry juice. Good tips for people who have trouble sleeping! Lucky you ~ another Flyby Winging which can be found among the other blessed lenses for today at Have Wings Will Bless! They may call me an aimless wanderer, but not all who wander are aimless and I'm glad my aim was good when I wandered upon this. ~Ren

    • MartieG profile image

      MartieG aka 'survivoryea' 5 years ago from Jersey Shore

      Way back in the 60's I used to work for TWA and was in the air more than I was on the ground!--Good tips for that unforgiving jet lag!

    • lyttlehalfpint profile image

      lyttlehalfpint 5 years ago from Canada

      I am a natural night owl and a bear in the mornings ... though I do not travel enough for jet lag ... I do like to nap a lot!.

    • Elyn MacInnis profile image
      Author

      Elyn MacInnis 5 years ago from Shanghai, China

      @anonymous: This is still the most straightforward and best way to do it. The trouble comes if you have a hard time doing that, like arriving in the early morning in a destination very far away and having to work all day or something like that. Or having to eat spaghetti for lunch! That is a crasher. Thanks for coming by.

    • Elyn MacInnis profile image
      Author

      Elyn MacInnis 5 years ago from Shanghai, China

      @GabStar: I guess some people do that - night work suits them better. My brother likes night. If it fits the schedule of your family / work/ life, why not? Glad you liked it.

    • profile image

      anonymous 5 years ago

      I have to say that I am getting better thank goodness as I have been pretty much travelling full time the last few years. But I try to get on the time of my destination as soon as I set foot on the plane

    • GabStar profile image

      GabStar 5 years ago

      I am naturally a night person - I definitely can't handle mornings. Great lens and maybe I should find a night shift somewhere...

    • Elyn MacInnis profile image
      Author

      Elyn MacInnis 5 years ago from Shanghai, China

      @flicker lm: Night shifts are tough. Especially if you do not have a pattern. Still, these remedies all work for night shift too. I hope you find them useful.

    • flicker lm profile image

      flicker lm 5 years ago

      I've worked a night shift and it really does put you out of sync with the normal rhythms. Glad you've found some remedies for your jet lag!

    • Elyn MacInnis profile image
      Author

      Elyn MacInnis 5 years ago from Shanghai, China

      @Ann Hinds: That is a luxurious thing to do isn't it. I like getting up early too.

    • Elyn MacInnis profile image
      Author

      Elyn MacInnis 5 years ago from Shanghai, China

      @Matstar LM: You have a lot of strength - that is wonderful. I wish I could do that!

    • Elyn MacInnis profile image
      Author

      Elyn MacInnis 5 years ago from Shanghai, China

      @BuckHawkcenter: Isn't that fantastic! More people should know about it. I see it in health food stores and also online, and also it's on Amazon. So it should be easy to find. Thanks for your comments.

    • BuckHawkcenter profile image

      BuckHawkcenter 5 years ago

      When I discovered Rescue Remedy, I had already been traveling heavily for 6 months. And suffering through jet lag! But after Rescue Remedy, I could sleep well and wake refreshed.

    • Ann Hinds profile image

      Ann Hinds 5 years ago from So Cal

      Can't say that I've ever had jet lag but I haven't been more than 3 hours away from home. I liked traveling back east because I am an early riser but fall asleep early too. I could stay up later in New York and almost felt like a kids staying up past my bedtime. Still, this is good information to learn.

    • Matstar LM profile image

      Matstar LM 5 years ago

      Yes I travel quite a lot so often get jet lag I normally end up going through the day and staying awake until night :) that generally get me throughout it