enjoys feeling disoriented, nauseated, tired, and unable to concentrate or
sleep. But with a few simple precautions, you can vastly reduce your jet lag
symptoms and enjoy a smoother transition.
What is jet lag?
ever taken a long flight and arrived at your destination feeling weak, tired, or
generally awful? Thatís jet lag Ė and itís not just your imagination. Itís
a genuine physiological phenomenon. Symptoms of jet lag may include:
loss of appetite
reduced aerobic fitness
reduced anaerobic fitness
joint swelling and stiffness
muscle pain and stiffness
originates in the nerve cells of the hypothalamus, the region of our brain that
regulates temperature, sleep, circadian rhythms, appetite, and hunger.
of the brain evolved long before air travel and it responds slowly to changes in
external time and light levels. This conflict between ďinner timeĒ and ďouter
timeĒ is jet lag.
scientists estimate that itíll take you one full day to recover for every hour
of time difference. So, if you travel from London, UK to New York, USA, expect
about five days until you feel right.
Interestingly, the direction you travel can affect the severity of your jet lag
symptoms. Traveling east is more difficult on the body than traveling
west. It seems to be easier for our bodies to delay our internal clocks
than to speed them up.
even experienced travelers suffer from jet lag.
New Zealand survey of international flight attendants found that while they were
used to long-haul travel
90 % suffered from tiredness over the first
five days of arrival;
94 % experienced a lack of energy and
93 % reported broken sleep; and
70 % had ear, nose or throat problems.
no fun, but luckily, taking a few simple precautions before, during and after
you travel can make an enormous difference, helping you recover much more
How to manage jet lag
Set your expectations
a frequent traveler, you may enjoy an ultra-modern jet-set life, but in terms of
your body, youíre still working with old hardware.
the fact that if youíre crossing several time zones, it will play a role in your
travel no matter what you do, so plan accordingly.
that you may not be at your best for a few days following a long trip,
especially if you flew east. Set your expectations appropriately.
instance, if you have a big business meeting on Wednesday morning in Barcelona,
consider arriving a day or two in advance rather than grabbing the red-eye from
Atlanta on Tuesday night.
that gives you extra time to find an espresso and enjoy strolling Las Ramblas.)
with smart planning, you can dramatically reduce your symptoms with a few
adjustments to your nutrition, exercise, and supplements.
news: Appropriate fasting protocols can radically reduce jet lag symptoms.
researchers put fasting to the test with 186 National Guard personnel deployed
across nine time zones. In particular, they tested the Argonne diet
protocol (see below) for its effects on jet lag symptoms.
participants used the diet in preparation for their deployment, and 39 used it
in preparation for their return. The rest just followed their regular routine.
deployment, those who followed the Argonne fasting diet were 7.5 times less
likely to experience jet lag upon arrival. Of the 39 who followed the
protocol upon their return, they were 16.2 times less likely to experience jet
protocol adopted by this study is a little intense, and can require alternate
feasting and fasting for up to four days before travel, which isnít necessarily
feasible for everyone.
Clifford Saper created a simplified version, which PNís own Dr. John Berardi has
followed several times when he has to fly across multiple time zones in order to
Modified Argonne Diet Protocol
On your day of travel, eat a normal breakfast and normal lunch.
Then fast immediately before and especially during the flight, while drinking
plenty of water to stay hydrated.
Upon arrival, eat soon after landing, as close to local meal time as
possible. Then initiate a normal meal schedule based on local time.
Fasting should last at least 14 hours but can last as long as 24 hours.
You may need to adjust actual meal times based on your flight time.
the kind of person who likes an outdoor morning workout, you know that exercise
ó especially combined with light exposure ó can dramatically improve your mood
and energy levels at a time of day when many people feel sluggish.
with carefully timed food intake, exercise can also affect our circadian
rhythms. And when used appropriately, exercise can help to alleviate the
symptoms of jet lag.
kind of exercise is any kind that you can do outdoors during daylight hours.
the most powerful regulator of our internal biological clocks, so we can use
light cues to help minimize jet lag. Bright light tells the body itís time to be
awake, especially when combined with movement.
helpful trick is to train at the same time youíd train at home. In other words,
if you normally train at 8 a.m. in LA and you have traveled to London, do your
best to train at 8 a.m. London time, and preferably outside.
Interestingly, training at the same time every day may have little effect on the
brainís biological clock. The main benefit seems to be that it helps our
muscles and peripheral tissues synchronize with the new time zone.
Regardless, training at our usual time does seem to affect various body systems,
and it certainly seems to help with jet lag.
thereís not much research on the best type of exercise to reduce jet lag. But
listen to your body and do what feels best.
intensity cardio may be out of the question when youíre exhausted and every limb
seems to weigh twice as much as it normally does. If thatís the case, try a
light body weight workout, a walk, or some stretching exercises. Any kind
of movement is probably helpful.
you can, at approximately the same time as your usual routine, and preferably
is a hormone secreted by the pineal gland in the brain. One of melatoninís key
jobs is controlling the bodyís circadian rhythm ó the internal clock that plays
an important role in when we fall asleep and when we wake up.
release is tied to the amount of light you experience. Light suppresses its
release. When it gets dark at night and we turn out the lights, melatonin
release is stimulated.
time zones, we may suddenly find ourselves exposed to excessive light when
ordinarily, it would be our bedtime. Even a three-hour time difference can be
happens, our melatonin cycles become disrupted and we experience jet lag until
our circadian rhythms adjust to the new environment.
why melatonin supplements may help.
timing is critical. Research suggests that taking melatonin before leaving for a
trip makes jet lag symptoms even worse.
until you land in the new time zone to supplement; this will significantly
reduce jet lag symptoms, improve sleep quality, and increase alertness and
know that both light exposure and melatonin supplementation can be used to shift
the human circadian clock, you might wonder what happens when the two techniques
are used together.
a gradually advancing sleep schedule (where
each participant was wakened one hour earlier each morning for three days),
with light exposure upon waking (to simulate
morning light in a new time zone),
along with afternoon melatonin (or a placebo,
for those in a control group).
result? A gradually advancing sleep schedule, morning light exposure, and
placebo caused a 1.7 hour per day shift in participantsí circadian rhythms.
melatonin was added to the regime, participants gained a full hour per day in
circadian adjustment, up to ~2.6 hours per day.
3 mg of melatonin was no more effective than 0.5 mg of melatonin. In other
words, a very small amount of melatonin could have powerful effects.
study and others suggest that if you want to supplement with melatonin to combat
take from 0.5 mg up to 5 mg of melatonin for
three nights (or until adjusted);
one hour before a normal bedtime; and
only after youíve reached your travel
Pycnogenol is another supplement that has been studied for its ability to
decrease jet lag symptoms.
participants took 50 mg of pycnogenol three times per day for seven days,
starting two days prior to travel, the average duration of jet lag symptoms
group suffered for 39.8 hours, while those who supplemented with pycnogenol
endured their symptoms for only 18.2 hours.
Perhaps because pycogenol significantly reduced cerebral edema or swelling, as
well as edema of the limbs.
result, those who supplemented with pycnogenol had fewer short- term memory
problems, fewer problems with cardiac function and blood pressure, and also
reported far less fatigue
Interestingly, pycnogenol supplementation has also been shown to decrease deep
vein thrombosis and superficial vein thrombosis Ė common side effects of long
in one study of people who were at moderate to high risk for such events,
pycnogenol decreased the incidence of thrombosis from 5.15% to 0%.
as humans continue to travel long distances by air, jet lagís probably a fact of
life. But luckily, thereís a lot you can do to prevent and reduce it.
Before you go
with, try adjusting your wake and sleep cycle as close as possible to your
destinationís time zone. This involves waking up and going to bed one hour
progressively earlier or later (depending on which way youíre traveling) each
day for three days.
travelling east, wake up an hour earlier each day for three days. If youíre
travelling west, do the reverse. You can visit JetLagRooster to help you determine your
bright light during your day. You can use an artificial light box if
you own one, or better yet, you can get outdoors. At minimum, you can sit near a
choose to fast, start about 14-24 hours before your next planned meal in your
new time zone.
supplementing with 50 mg of pycnogenol three times a day, starting two days
before your trip.
youíre still fresh and full of energy, try a higher intensity workout before
your flight to burn some calories and prevent travel stress. If possible, do
this at your usual workout time.
course, if you have a very early flight, you may not have time for a full
workout, but a few brisk laps around the airport before boarding will work just
hydrated and continue your fast.
possible, get up and move about the cabin often, at least once every hour
to promote blood flow and inhibit swelling.
little space by the bathrooms has enough space for some squats. Just donít kick
the drink cart.)
alcohol and caffeine because alcohol can dehydrate you and
caffeine may affect your circadian rhythms.
yourself to sunlight and social interaction. The worst thing you can do
is go into a dimly lit hotel room and watch TV.
taking a nap if you need to, but only if you can limit it to 30 or
40 minutes. The worst thing you can do is hop into bed the minute you arrive and
stay there for hours.
yourself to light as quickly as possible upon waking each morning in
your new location.
taking 0.5 (or up to 5mg) of melatonin for three nights or until adjusted, one
hour before normal bedtime in your new location.
taking 50 mg of pycnogenol three times per day for up to five days
after landing (up to a total of seven days).
exercise outdoors at your usual workout time. If you prefer to lift
weights, you can always lift weights at your usual time, but try to follow up
with a walk outside to get the best of both worlds.
the benefits of travel without as much jet lag!
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