Jet-lag jungle survival tips

Written by admin on March 26, 2009 – 6:20 pm -

There’s an alleged rule of thumb that when crossing time zones, it takes one day for every two hours of time change to acclimate to a new destination. That means, if you’re jetting from the East Coast of the U.S. to Europe (a six hour time difference), your internal body clock might take three days to get into sync.

Most people just don’t have that kind of time to get on schedule. For that matter, they could be home before they do. Luckily, people are generally adaptable or air travel might not be a viable option for them. Even three hours from the east coast of the U.S. to the west coast can set a person’s sense of time amiss.

Ask flight crew members how they cope. Some will tell you they always stay on the same time zone in order to function or be able to work during their out-bound, ongoing or homecoming flights. Some people are definitely more adept than others and quite a few cabin attendants confess to suffering from frequent sleep deprivation. Such is life and they have learned to smile — most of the time.

Frequent vacation travelers and most road warriors often have suggestions as to how to combat jet-lag. There are no universal answers but here are a few hit-or-miss ideas.

Mindset:
Get in shape and prepare for your trip before leaving home. Gradually adjust your sleeping pattern. Some people go to bed an hour earlier or later each day (depending on whether they’re traveling east or west) and attempt to get into that destination time zone before the departure date. Focus on where you’re going. As soon as you board the plane, set your watch so many hours ahead – or behind. Ideally, you’ll be less tired if you’ve already partially shifted your schedule.

Alcohol:
Some people vow the worst thing to do on a plane is drink alcohol. Other passengers swear they have one or two cocktails or glasses of wine in order to relax and facilitate drifting off to sleep.

Some passengers opt to pop a pill with their drink and skip dinner if it’s an evening flight. They eat something before the plane departs and immediately will themselves into a Zen-like state. They resort to eye-shades, earplugs, headphones and a neck pillow and try to sleep all the way to their destination. Ask not be awakened for duty-free shopping or a second meal – if there is one. Wear your seat belt so it’s visible in the event of turbulence. Who needs to be disturbed by a crew member who’s checking to see whether or not you’re complying with the rules?

Request a large bottle of water so when you awaken during the flight, you can take a swig and remain hydrated without having to summon a flight attendant for a refill.

To nap or not when you arrive:
There are a many theories when it come to whether you should or shouldn’t. Some people say you should force yourself to stay awake the first day. You may be dragging but if you’re able to keep busy, eat an early (and light) dinner and hit the sack at a quasi-normal time, you’ll be good to go the following day.

Others say they couldn’t live without a nap, but it shouldn’t last more than a couple of hours. A lot depends on whether or not your accommodations are ready upon arrival plus your personal needs. And don’t be surprised if they change as you get older.

Exercise:
Many business people (and they’re usually the ones sitting in the front of the plane) swear that a workout in a gym gets their bodies and adrenalin going. Frequently, they’re expected at meetings the day they arrive and need to be in optimal form. They may even be scheduled for a business dinner their first night that can be more trying than pleasure.

On business trips, there’s a written rule that can’t always be followed: Never sign a binding document or contract before having a good night’s sleep. Doing so may cause you to regret having put pen to paper.

Light:
Jet-lag is often caused by the body’s internal clock being out of alignment when it comes to the Circadian Cycle or more commonly known as the sleep cycle. This controls when the body releases melatonin, which signals your brain when it’s time to sleep. Some travelers swear that taking melatonin tablets in preparation for a trip does the trick. Others give it little or no credence.

Some people use a light therapy unit (Apollo Health sells a travel kit) that might help adjust your body clock. Some people swear by artificial light as an antidote to winter/seasonal depression or “SAD”- Seasonal Affective Disorder as well as jet-lag.

Another theory suggests getting extra sleep before and after your trip when crossing multiple time zones. It’s as if you’re stocking up or making up for lost hours in bed.

If people agree on anything, it’s that you shouldn’t spend a long haul flight catching up on all of the movies (good and bad) you haven’t had the chance to see at home. Teens may be able to pull all-nighters; but even they suffer upon landing.

One thing I’ve noticed during my many flights is people in business and first class appear to sleep from lift-off time even if it’s a morning or mid-day flight. Let’s face it; it’s rare when it’s worth staying awake to sample the gourmet food.

If you have any secrets, ideas or suggestions as to how to beat jet-lag and falling on your face on the first and second days of your trip, please post them.

Karen Fawcett is president of BonjourParis.


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