What air traveler hasn't experienced jet lag? This pesky disorder can turn a long-anticipated trip into a blur of fatigue and irritability. You sleepwalk through activities, have difficulty concentrating, lose your appetite, and may even feel cold for no reason. All you really want to do is pull the covers over your head and try to get some much-needed sleep.
While there is no foolproof way to avoid jet lag completely, there are several promising remedies that may help you to speed the recovery process.
Bodies in (Slow) Motion
In order to understand how to recover from jet lag more quickly, it helps to know why you're suffering.
When you travel quickly through several time zones, the rate of speed desynchronizes your internal clocks. That's right: clocks. It turns out that many parts of the human body have their own independent time sensors, which are synchronized through a "master clock" in the brain's pineal gland. The gland produces melatonin, the hormone responsible for regulating the body's internal clocks and establishing a person's circadian rhythm, which is the pattern that allows you to cycle from sleepiness to alertness in a given 24-hour period.
When this careful balance is upset, you experience jet lag. Different parts of the body adjust at different rates of speed, and that is what causes the classic symptoms of gastrointestinal upset, brain fog, sleeplessness, and moodiness. The further you travel, and even the direction in which you travel, dictates how badly you will be affected; eastward travel, for instance, causes more pronounced jet lag than does traveling west.
Ways to Fool Mother Nature
Most jet lag remedies work by fooling the body's internal clocks into synchronizing more quickly. Exercise and fasting protocols, such as the Argonne Anti-Jet-Lag Diet, have proven effective for many people. Others have had good luck using supplemental remedies such as the following:
Taken in small doses -- 0.5 to 5 mg, depending on how your individual body responds -- melatonin, the same hormone that regulates the body's internal clocks, can effectively reduce the symptoms of jet lag. When flying eastward, you should take the first dose while in transit; subsequent doses should be taken 20-30 minutes prior to sleeping. Westward fliers can skip the initial in-flight dosage.
- A Compact Light Box
Compact light boxes work the same way as larger models but can easily fit in a briefcase or carryon bag. To reduce the symptoms of jet lag, you should supplement your light exposure with the light box one hour a day for the same number of days you will be traveling across time zones. For eastward travel, use the light box just after waking. When you are traveling west, expose yourself to supplemental light just before going to bed.
- Tablets Containing Pycnogenol®
Extract from the bark of the French maritime pine, marketed under the brand name Pycnogenol®, has been proven to reduce jet lag symptoms significantly in several scientific research studies. The way this supplement works is by reducing brain edema, or swelling, as well as swelling in the external limbs. The anti-inflammatory properties of the extract also make it a useful preventative for deep vein thrombosis and ankle swelling, which are also risks of long distance air travel. Ideally, compounds containing Pycnogenol® should be taken both before and after travel.