I’ve realised that this year already, it’s September right now, I’ve flown from Australia to Canada to Argentina to Canada to Australia/NZ to Canada and back to Australia, and I have a few more hemisphere changes lined up before the end of the year. So you could say I’m a self anointed jet lag expert but please remember that I’m not here to professionally diagnose or treat your jet lag ailments.
In all seriousness, after four years of back and forth long haul flying I’ve got a few jet lag hacks that I can recommend you try next time you have a time change on the horizon. Read on!
First let me start with my favourite suggestions because these don’t cost a thing!
It’s not only the source of all energy on planet earth, it’s rays also work wonders for resetting our body clock (circadian rhythm). When you arrive get out into the sun, even if it’s overcast the effect still works. Feel it on your skin, let it shine at your face. If you can spend the first day outside that would be ideal but not always possible.
Ok, hopefully you get active on the regular so I’m not suggesting a fish out of water experience. Do get your heart rate up and get a sweaty glow on via some exercise. Moving our body after being cooped up on a flight or worse, multiple flights in a row is the best way to get the blood flowing, shift fluid build up (I usually get puffy feet) It also helps get you a little worked so when it comes time to get into bed at what seems like an odd hour to your body, you’re more likely to fall asleep and stay asleep through the night.
Water, water, water and maybe some added electrolytes to get your hydration on. The ambient humidity on an airplane is drier than the Sahara so hydrate before, during and after. Lethargy after a flight can often be from dehydration, as well as dried out skin and constipation which aren't much fun either.
Ok, I always slip in vegetables into my blog posts but here it’s justifiable. After eating airplane food or pre-packaged snacks we packed on the flight, it’s no wonder sometimes doing a poop can seem like a distant dream. Get in some fresh vegetables after you land to fill you up with water and fiber that will get things moving in the toilet department. Also there is just something about eating a vibrant meal full of life and nutrients that makes me feel full of energy and ready to seize that time difference.
Stay awake when you land until a reasonable bedtime, when you hit the sack make sure to set an alarm to get up at a reasonable hour. When I arrive at a new time zone, it's common for me to need extra sleep, 9-10 hours instead of 8. But sleeping even longer extends the abnormal sleeping pattern so I make sure to set my alarm and get out of bed.
Bonus points: If you can dip in a large outdoor body of water do it! Every time I get off a plane and get into the ocean or a lake my jet lag is a non-event.
Ok this these are my final tips that requires parting with some hard earned dollar bills, these are not essential but for the extreme time zone changers like me this is great to have in the tool kit.
5-HTP is a naturally occurring amino acid (amino acids are building blocks of protein) and is a precursor in your body’s process of making the feel good neurotransmitter serotonin. The supplement is made from a plant so is suitable for vegetarians. 5-HTP also provides the body with the parts to make melatonin which is a commonly recommended supplement for regulating the sleep/wake cycle, but instead of ingesting melatonin whether your body needs it or not, by providing the building blocks the body can synthesize melatonin if required. If you can find a product that combines about 100mg 5-HTP with its cofactors vitamin B6, magnesium and/or Vitamin C then all the better.
Magnesium is one of the 7 essential macrominerals (needed in larger quantities) required by the body and amongst other things it helps us regulate our stress response. It’s also a great post travel helper for getting things moving in the toilet department, alongside relaxing for bedtime. I like Natural Calm dissolved in hot water before bed. Nutraceuticals (in Australia) and Thorne (online everywhere at iHerb.com) also have great magnesium powder products that are great to drink during the flight and after. Magnesium is also a key electrolyte and works to balance fluid in the body which is great after getting dehydrated on a plane or puffiness from fluid build up after being cooped up in a small plane seat.
Everyone has their own tips for adapting to a changed time zone and I’d love to hear yours! Plus I’ll keep updating this list since my travel doesn't seem to be slowing down any time soon.
Extra curricular reading:
The US National Library of Medicine on the safety of 5-HTP