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What is Jet Lag and How to Avoid It

Jet lag is one of the most common problems of modern jet travel. Whether it is dozing off during an important business meeting or being wide awake in the middle of the night, the effects of jet lag are experienced by 94 percent of long-distance travelers. Some of the symptoms include:

  • Fatigue
  • Disorientation
  • Lack of concentration and motivation
  • Disrupted sleep after travel
  • Dehydration
  • Discomfort of legs and feet

Medical evidence also shows that jet lag also makes travelers more susceptible to colds, flu, and stomach upsets.

What Causes Jet Lag?

The greatest cause of jet lag is rapid transit across world time zones. The more time zones we cross, the greater the disruption of our body clock (which governs our temperature, heartbeat, blood pressure, and physiological patterns), resulting in disorientation and mental and physical fatigue.

Sitting still for long periods of time in flight causes discomfort and possible swelling of the legs and feet (see our article on "Deep Vein Thrombosis"). The dry atmosphere in airliner cabins can cause dehydration. Altitude and pressure changes at each landing and takeoff also upset body systems, and although airliner cabins are pressurized, these changes are significant causes of jet lag.

What Can We Do?

Here are some of our favorite strategies for resetting your body's clock.

  • Start Rested. The preparation for a long trip often means you're tired before you begin. If at all possible, get enough rest in the days prior to your trip, so you can start out strong and full of energy.
  • Sleep. It's best if you can sleep on the plane. Earplugs, eyeshades, and a comfortable neck pillow are well worth the effort of packing if they prevent you from losing a day to jet lag. Try to take care of as many travel details as possible before you leave so that flight day is stress and anxiety-free, and wear comfortable clothes and shoes.
  • Many travelers have depended successfully on No-Jet-Lag to help them feel fresh on arrival. It's a surprisingly effective, natural homeopathic product that addresses all the symptoms of jet lag, not just sleeplessness.

  • While a drink or two may relax you, alcohol can dehydrate you, making your symptoms worse. Also, Flight Safety Expert Diana Fairechild (author of Jet Smarter) says "Avoid sleeping pills and mind-altering pharmaceuticals on the day you fly. In the event of an emergency, you will need all your faculties in order to survive."
  • Drink water. Lots of it. Plan on 8 to 16 ounces during each hour of travel. Taking a bottle or two on board can save you the awkwardness of repeatedly pressing the "call button" for another glass of water, and will help you resist caffeinated and sugared drinks, which can actually make you more dehydrated. Have a nice, long hot bath when you arrive to rehydrate and relax.
  • Exercise. The long periods of sitting on an airplane, bus, or train are hard on your body. Walking and stretching exercises in flight will help your body adjust to the new climate. To help reset your body clock, try to stay awake until bedtime rather than taking a nap upon arrival - spending time outdoors seems to help most travelers.
  • Experience. As you travel, experiment to find the system that works best for you. Some travelers forswear all naps, others insist on them. Keeping note of your experiences will help you get the most from future trips. Consult with fellow travelers, too. Their experiences can help you avoid days lost to jet lag discomfort.

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