It’s neither here nor there… The perils of jetlag

To read the words of T.S. Eliot, “The journey, not the arrival, matters” makes you realize, that T.S. Eliot has never flown economy. Because if he had, he would never have uttered those famous words. The joy of being squeezed in between rows and rows of chairs occupied by people who all would like to make the most of the tiny space they have paid good money for, is anything but fun.

But all journeys come to an end, eventually, after passport checks and endless waits for luggage.. There is no better feeling than being cleaned up and to be able to rest horizontally…The first night you sleep out of pure exhaustion. If that is gone, you realize, it is still there, lurking around the corner: The Jetlag…

The jetlag is defined according to the Cambridge dictionary: ‘The feeling of tiredness and confusion that people experience after making a long journey by plane to a place where the time is different from the place they left.’

As much as you would like, there is no real cure for a jet lag, and I have yet to meet a person who breezes through different time zones like a regular time traveller. It is said that a jetlag lingers a day for every hour of time difference! But there are some tricks to make jetlag less problematic.

Although poorly understood, there is a definite link between our mealtimes and our need for sleep. A research among a small group of men, showed this link indicating that if you adjust your mealtimes according the time of your destination, your body will synchronize faster. Although it seems difficult to eat a heavy meal at the time that your body feels it should be asleep, do try to eat during the mealtimes of your destination, and forgo heavy night time snacking. 

This idea that our mealtimes and sleep are closely linked, triggered the idea of the ‘Argonne Diet Prototcol’. This diet was first tested in 2002, with 186 National Guard personnel deployed across nine time zones. The participants who did use this protocol were 7.5 times more likely to have no jetlag. This protocol is not an easy one, it requires quite some planning before you travel and fasting during times that it is night time at your travel destination. This is not always practical. 

A more moderate approach would be to start considering the mealtimes at the time of destination during your flight, which means fasting during the time it corresponds with the night time of the place of destination. Do drink plenty of water to stay hydrated. Upon arrival, eat the meal closest to the meal time at destination.

When flying long distance, the staff in the plane adjust the lightning according to the time upon arrival. Windows are closed tricking your brain to think it is night-time. Of course, you know it isn’t, but play along! Even if it is very tempting to watch all those movies you for long wanted to see, the blue-light of the screens send of a message to your brain, that it is indeed still daytime. So, do try to snooze with maybe some light music on and try to avoid the screens in front of you and your own personal screens.  

But the best way I have noticed to overcome jetlag is to expose yourself to (morning) sunlight as much as possible. If you need to take a short snooze (no longer than 30 -40 minutes), by all means, but go outside as much as possible. Sunlight even outperformed caffeine into regulating our (new) sleeping habits. So keep yourself busy during those hours that you feel overcome with tiredness by doing some fun and social activities. Studies suggest that outdoor exercise has some effects in speeding up the synchronization of our body to a new environment. So if you are up to it, exercise.

Travelling takes time, and travelling through different time zones, takes up even more time since you also have to take into account the ‘tiredness and confusion’ brought upon by the jetlag. So, if you are travelling oversees for an all-important meeting, allow for enough time to overcome your jetlag, or book the meeting at a time which is closest to your ‘awake’ time of your country of origin and use it to your advantage…!

Safe travels!

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Susan Stein
Susan Steinhttp://www.susansteinnutritionist.com/
Susan has a Bachelor degree in International Business and a Bachelor degree in Health Science, Nutritional Medicine. Her experiences ranges from International sales within the IT industry to interim manager in the European Centre for Macrobiotics. As a former Sales Manager, Susan knows how to motivate and engage people. Originally from the Netherlands, after her travels in Africa, she now resides in Australia with her husband and two daughters. Susan is the founder and creator of the ‘Ripple Effect of Food’ program.

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