If you’ve ever flown long-haul, you’ll remember the bewildering effects of jet lag.
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Symptoms of exhaustion and nausea are caused by crossing different time zones, disrupting our circadian rhythm – the natural 24-hour body clock based on sunrise and sunset.
While our brains are able to slowly adapt to changes, for example during summer time, suddenly jumping forwards or backwards several hours has a greater impact.
Everyone has their own method of dealing with jet lag. From old wives’ tales with innovative applications and royal advice from Her Major, the following remedies are rooted in science. The next time you get on a plane, they might make the time zone change bearable.
Technical processing: TimeShifter
“Jet lag is history. This is the slogan of this app co-invented by neuroscientist Dr. Steven Lockley. TimeShifter uses NASA-approved science to combat jet lag. Its algorithm has helped astronauts, athletes and top CEOs. Now it’s available on your smartphone.
“Generic advice is overly simplistic and can often be counterproductive, making jet lag worse,” says Lockley. Instead, TimeShifter writes individual jet lag plans based on each trip. The app uses personal data such as age, gender, sleep patterns, and whether you’re an early riser or a night owl, to generate each shot.
The plan then tells you when to avoid the light, when to look for it, and (if you want to) when to drink coffee or melatonin pills. It sends notifications throughout the day to remind you when to take action, and it works offline to keep you up to date on the fly. Business travelers will appreciate the Quick Turnaround ™ feature, designed for people who don’t need to fully adapt to the local time zone but need to stay awake for meetings at 4:00 PM.
The royal remedy: suck a sweetheart
Queen Elizabeth II is the most traveled monarch in history, so it’s no surprise that she has a trick or two up her sleeve to combat jet lag. What’s surprising is how low-tech and easily affordable it is. Besides using homeopathic remedies, she swears by barley sugar. Yes, the hard candy you can buy for £ 1 at your local store.
More remarkable still, his approach is backed by science. When her major sucks on a boiled candy, she uses her sugar metabolic pathways to align her body clock to where she is going. Fighting jet lag is all about subconscious routines, and we are used to eating at times. You might get the same effect from eating a meal, but if you’re not hungry, a high-sugar candy is the perfect solution.
The sunny solution: step into the light
Light, and its absence, is the biggest trigger in our body clock. This is why flying from east to west is easier: the day is getting longer. Getting out in the sun is the fastest way to recalibrate your brain to your new time zone, so when you book your flight, look for one that lands in the morning or afternoon.
Getting that sun doesn’t just mean slapping the factor 30 and hitting the beach. If you’re on vacation in the city, take a stroll through your new neighborhood and stop for a morning coffee or dinner, al fresco.
Even if the day is cloudy, you will benefit more from sunlight than indoor artificial light. When you leave the airport, don’t rush to get a taxi or train. Take a few minutes to contemplate the sky. Not directly in the sun, of course.
The adrenaline-pumping antidote: exercise
A workout may be at the bottom of your to-do list after landing, but consider increasing it. Jet lag causes fatigue, anxiety, and poor circulation which can all be helped with a little light cardio. Exercise also blocks the production of melatonin (the sleep hormone). A brisk walk, jog, or swim should give you the energy you need until bedtime.
“Exercise helps regulate body temperature, which is another way for our circadian rhythms to readjust,” says Papillon Luck, founder of the 15th Degree jet lag supplement company. “A great travel tip is to add exercise after a cold shower to regulate your core temperature. Ouch.
Last year, Delta Air Lines and Los Angeles luxury gym chain Equinox launched a #Sweatlag class with exercises specifically designed to combat the effects of lag. But if you’re not flying to LA, you can get the same effect by jogging at a nearby park for some fresh air and sunlight, followed by a few light weights in your hotel gym. , if you are feeling wild.
The gourmet solution: enjoy dishes rich in tryptophan
Choosing your snacks and meals carefully can also help get your body clock back on track. Tryptophan, an amino acid, is the key to creating the serotonin (the hormone of happiness) that your body turns into melatonin.
Turkey is notoriously high in tryptophan, one of the reasons we all enjoy a good nap after Christmas dinner. But it is not the only one.
Raise your hand if you’ve ever had a carb coma? We all have them, and that’s because carbs are also high in tryptophan, so jet lag is the perfect excuse to indulge in a big bowl of ramen, carbonara, or poutine. Other foods to watch out for are red meat, eggs, soft cheese, and chicken, as well as vegan beans and tofu.
Dietitian Ryan Maciel, RDN recommends reverting to childhood with a glass of milk before bed. “The calcium in milk acts like a sleeping pill by helping to convert the amino acid tryptophan into melatonin,” he said.
While you can’t avoid jet lag completely, it’s possible to get your body to change its habits by trying to stick to your natural routine as much as possible. Fresh air, sunlight, and exercise are the natural enemies of jet lag, and food also plays a role (so get home well).