If you are a frequent flier, you must have experienced jet lag at some point. It is a disturbance to your sleep-wake cycle triggered by long-distance air travel across time zones. As more and more people have begun to travel by air, jet lag has become a major part of modern living.
Our body gets used to a particular day-and-night cycle and the body clock and sleep patterns get accustomed to the environment we reside in. Thus, when you are travelling across a vast distance, the body is feels out of sync and acts a little confused because its natural pattern is upset.
Some people (usually those below 35 years of age) experience mild or no symptoms. Others find it difficult to fall asleep, feel fatigued during the day, have swollen feet, water retention, poor immunity (as you breathe recycled air along with bacteria and virus on the airplane), cold and cough, sneezing and malaise. Symptoms of jet lag vary with every individual. Mild headaches, tiredness and fatigue, sleeplessness (insomnia), disorientation, irritability, problems in bowel movement and dehydration are common symptoms.
One may also experience lack of motivation while working. These symptoms can be very debilitating for those people travelling for work purpose or athletes who need to be in their best form, as it may reduce work efficiency.
How to prevent jet lag
A day prior to the flight, try to eat light and healthy food. Consume more broths, soups, salads, juices, etc. Avoid high fat and caloric-dense foods. Theyinduce lethargy.
Drink a lot of fluids before flights to help reduce dehydration. Plain water, soups, juices are preferable.
Herbal teas like chamomile and valerian are known to have a tranquilising effect, and help in aiding sleep. Carry a few tea bags with you.
Supplements of melatonin are thought to help the body adjust to the new circadian rhythms. Melatonin is a hormone that is responsible for controlling the body clock and its sleeping, eating and other physiological patterns.
Sugar lowers immunity and depletes minerals. So avoid desserts and sweet drinks during long flights.
Alcohol is twice as potent when you drink on a flight, making you feel more fatigued and listless.
Two weeks before your long flight, take a high strength multivitamin along with
vitamin A, C and E every day to improve anti-oxidant intake. This will strengthen your immunity and prevent you from falling sick.
Vitamin C also helps thin blood and prevent circulation problem.
Try to get up and walk around the plane and stretch your limbs as much as you can. This will get your circulation moving and relax
Reduce your coffee, alcohol and cola intake on long flights. These drinks dehydrate the body and disturb sleep patterns.
Long-distance flights can really be taxing to some people. If you travel frequently, these tips may help reduce your discomfort and prevent you from losing valuable sleep and time.
Dr Anjali Mukerjee is a nutritionist and founder of Health Total, a nutrition counselling centre