April 16, 2015

Staying Healthy when Traveling: Pro-tips to Minimize Jet-lag.

Airplane Wing

Have some aggressive time-zone hopping coming up on the schedule?

Wondering how to prepare for the physical effects of jet-lag?

Jet-lag is the physiological manifestation of circadian rhythm disruptions caused by rapid transmeridian—east to west or west to east—travel.

Sufferers of jet-lag complain of a myriad of symptoms including:

Sleep Disturbance

Irregular bowel movements

Difficulty concentrating




General malaise

The first few days of in a new time zone can be difficult if even partially incapacitated by jet-leg symptoms. So, do yourself a solid and stack the deck in your favor.

Minimize jet-lag with these pro tips:

Before boarding the plane:

The week prior to the trip start adjusting your internal clock by shifting sleep patterns in the direction of time at your destination. For example, if heading to New York from London (east to west travel), there will be a 5-hour difference in time. Each night the week before departing, try to stay up an hour or two later than normal and sleep in a few hours later.  This will help start the process of resetting your internal clock. If  traveling west to east, do the opposite: get up and go to bed earlier.

Starting two or three days prior to departure, make sure to get plenty of sleep so you board the plane well-rested. If possible, plan a moderately strenuous work out in the hours before flying.

Avoid the temptation of alcohol or empty calories in the airport. Drink plenty of water and have a small, protein dense meal.

While en route:

Hydrate, hydrate, hydrate. A lot of the symptoms of jet-lag can be minimized by simply drinking plenty of water while flying. And, know this—it is completely acceptable to ask the flight attendant for extra water. Avoid alcohol and caffeine. I promise abstaining will be worth it.

Make sure to move every couple hours while on the plane. Walk the aisle and do simple yoga stretches while seated (neck rolls, ceiling reaches, seated twists, seated savasana).

If planning to sleep, bring a neck pillow and ear plugs. This will increase the chances of getting quality shut-eye.

Upon arrival:

Make an effort to adjust eating and sleeping schedule to the new local time. There will be a strong temptation to nap upon arrival, but avoid this temptation. I mean it! No naps!

If able, soak up some vitamin D by spending 45 minutes outside in the sun. Take a walk. Do yoga practice in a park.

In the first few days, consuming high protein meals at breakfast and lunch will help maintain energy during the day. And a more carbohydrate-rich dinner will help motivate the necessary drowsiness for sleep.

Consider taking melatonin—a 3 mg dose at bedtime each night in the new time zone can help promote more normal sleep patterns.

The general rule of thumb is to expect to need one day to adjust for every time zone crossed.

Plan ahead and treat your body well prior to traveling, while en route, and upon arrival, and adjusting to the new time zone should be possible without significant delay or jet-lag symptoms.

Stay healthy, travelers!


Author: Jessica Chardoulias 

Editor: Emily Bartran

Photo: Flickr

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