Jet lag is a major side effect from the travel bug. But there are ways to deal with it. Scroll right down to the bottom of this blog if you are looking for remedies including aromatherapy, crystals and acupuncture.
Now that plane travel has become much cheaper than it used to be, many people like to fly across the other side of the world for their holidays or to see family or to secure business deals. Because I have to do a twice yearly flight crossing time zones adding up to an 8 to 10 hour difference, I am very familiar with the suffering caused by jet lag and the different responses I have had to it depending on direction and the season in the arrival destination. So I have done much reading about jet lag in order to understand it, but mainly to alleviate my weeklong suffering.
Jet lag is caused by the disruption to our body clock and our circadian rhythms when we travel across different time zones. Upon arriving at your destination, instead of being ready to explore, your body may want to sleep even though it is only lunch time, or when all the locals are sleeping, you may lay awake for hours even though it is 3am in the morning, making you even more tired. You may want to eat at odd hours, or while others are bubbly and full of energy, your energy has hit a trough. As well as fatigue and lack of alertness, there are other noted symptoms of jet lag including feeling apathetic or irritable, digestive issues as well as issues in decision making and judgment abilities. It is believed that as we age, our bodies become less adaptive to such changes, thus making it more difficult to get over jet lag
Technology and transport have developed quickly, enabling us to move vast distances, but our bodies are still the same and can’t adjust so quickly to the changes across time zones that planes can take us in a short amount of time. It is a lot to fly across time zones and to expect our bodies to adjust to this change. Research on the effects of jet lag shows that it is easier on your body to travel in a westerly direction rather than an easterly direction (where we go forward in actual time) which is contrary to the way the body clock works and the direction of the sun giving our bodies less time to adjust to the change, whereas travelling westwards gives us more time to transition. Research shows that our bodies can only adjust about 1 hour a day, although this differs according to whether we are flying eastwards or westwards. But it means that it can even take our bodies up to a week to adjust when we fly across time zones of even 7 hours. Feeling awful or even not quite right for a few days after landing is not a great option, so what can we do to help our bodies adjust and make the transition easier? We can’t travel across time zones without having jet lag, but we can minimize its effects.
Research has shown that there are a few things that will help reset our body clocks in less time. One way is exposing ourselves to sunshine or bright light when sunshine is not available. Sunshine or bright light regulates our body clock and allows our body to know if it is day or night, thus the regulating hormones which control our bodily functions such as melatonin which regulates sleeping and waking time. Our brain (pineal gland) releases melatonin according to the time of day or night which is indicated by the light reception by our eyes. This is also known as the circadian rhythm and this is the rhythm and regulation of secretion and inhibition of our hormones, core body temperature, digestion, heart rate and blood pressure. Our sleeping times are also regulated by our core body temperature which is the lowest just before we sleep and higher just before we wake.
As well as exposure to light, some other possible ways to make it easier on your body is to try and slightly adjust your sleeping times before leaving for your destination. If you are flying westwards, then try to go to sleep and wake later then you normally would by 1 hour everyday for a few days prior to departure (without causing a sleep deficit which will also make jet lag worse). While you fly, it is also beneficial to keep hydrated (with water) and eat lighter foods and if possible walk around the plane which will also be good for your circulation. If it is possible for you to sleep on the plane, then try to do it in accordance to the sleeping time of your destination. An eye mask and ear plugs could also help you. It is good to use relaxation techniques to get you to sleep rather than things like sleeping pills and alcohol, as the latter can make your jet lag worse. When you arrive, take short naps whenever necessary. Timing your exposure to sunlight to help regulate your body clock. But the timing of the light exposure is quite complex according to where you have flown from and where to, so it is probably easier to get help from a jet lag calculator which can be found online such as https://www.jetlagrooster.com/ or https://www.hillarys.co.uk/static/jet-lag-calculator/ or one of the phone apps that you can now download onto your phone. Stopovers also help you to adjust if the flight is long.
Acupressure is also great at helping your body adjust to jet lag. In Chinese medicine it is believed that the flow of qi (energy) through the body is happening all the time but specific meridians (and therefore a specific organ) have a 2 hour time peak of energy flow. These points are referred to as horary points in acupuncture literature. When you board your plane or even before, look at the time it is at your destination and should start stimulating the specific horary point according to that time for 2 minutes, every 2 hours. So if it is 1pm where you are presently, but 3am at your destination, you need to stimulate the 3am horary point. An example of this list can be found here http://davidbocktcm.com/articles/JetLag.pdf
As well as all the above there is aromatherapy, which of course I believe is unbeatable. You can either buy or make a remedy with essential oils which are more adaptogenic in their actions, helping the body adapt to whatever it needs at that specific time, for example geranium. This also helps the body regulate hormones and other oils like this include lemongrass and fragonia. Alternatively, you can use a more sedative oil such as lavender, chamomile or cedarwood when your body should be readying for sleep and more stimulating oils in the day time or when you feel fatigued. Stimulating oils include peppermint (also good for nausea), eucalyptus (also good for stuffy heads) and rosemary (also good for memory & concentration), just to name a few. Take your pick. As you anoint yourself with these oils, a great affirmation to use is ‘My body adjusts easily across time zones’
The latest resource I have added to my personal jet lag kit is crystals. As you may have noticed, I have spent the last few years studying crystals and using them in my life and am now starting to incorporate them into Aromazen Naturals’ products. One crystal which is reputed to be useful for jet lag is moonstone. I charge my moonstones up every full moon and I take them with me on every flight and since I have combined regular use of aromatherapy with the moonstone and the acupuncture and exposure to sun light (although I have been a bit haphazard with that) I have not even experienced anything except tiredness and maybe one or two nights of being awake for a few hours after having gone to sleep. Not too bad if I compare that to how I use to suffer for a week of sleep deprived nights.
Let me know what you do to beat jet lag.
Photo from Unsplash by Jason Leem