A few days ago I embarked on a forty hour journey (door to door) from Boulder, Colorado to Chiang Mai, Thailand. Since I have schlepped back and forth between the USA and Asia at least once a year for the past decade (this year it will be a record three times!), it is fair to say that I know a thing or two about jet lag.
Like a good recipe may take several rounds to perfect, coming to peace with all the icky-ness of jet lag (disrupted sleep cycles, grogginess, even delirium), has taken some trial and error. All bragging aside, this time I actually experienced no jet lag at all and I believe that I have finally found an effective combination of remedies and strategies to help you.
Whether you are flying across a single time zone or around the world, the effects of flying take a toll in disrupting your biorhythms. For shorter trips, you can tone down the following recommendations and pick and choose the most pertinent. For those of you long-haulers, I would adhere to this 100%!
Most important, drink TONS of water! I know that everyone tells you this--but do you really do it? I bring an empty water bottle, empty thermos, and tea bags. Have a flight attendant fill these up at the start of the flight and keep sipping and refilling....
2. Vitamin C
Take 1,000 mg every 2 hours (decrease the dosage if you experience loose stools- a rarity but a possibility). You can either take this as a pill or by dissolving a packet of "Emergen-C" in a glass of water.
When you go to the bathroom (from drinking all of that water), hang out in an open space in the back or in front of an emergency exit and bend forward. Keep your feet hip-width apart and hold onto your elbows (so that your arms surround your head like a picture frame). Bend your knees if you need to. Stay here for at least 10 breaths.
I take a homeopathic remedy called "No Jet-Lag." You can purchase it at a natural food store or pharmacy. Take one capsule at take off and then again every 2-4 hours while in flight. It works!
5. Move your joints
On your next trip to the bathroom, hang out before returning to your seat. Circle your ankles, wrists, shoulders, knees, hips, and neck. After so many hours of sitting, bring some fluidity and movement back into your joints. This will help keep your energy from becoming stagnant.
6. Eat Well
Avoid caffeine and alcohol and be sure not to overeat. I know this is hard to do when spending long hours in the airport and airplane. My little sister justifies airport McDonald's binges by saying, "What happens in the airport, stays in the airport," but you will feel it and regret it!
Eat lightly and pack your own snacks (I like apples, almonds, and Lara Bars). If you're really hard core, like myself, pack your own meals to avoid the packaged, and often very overly salted, airline food that is sure to make you feel bloated and lethargic. You can also request a "Fruit Plate" in advance, this will help keep you feeling light and hydrated. The people next to you will be jealous.
7. Sunshine, Exercise & No Napping!
Upon landing, if it is still daylight, get outside in the sun and fresh air. Take a walk or do some form of exercise (again, to get your energy moving). Whatever you do, don't take a nap! Try to stay up until your usual bedtime. If you arrive at night, get on the floor and do some gentle, slow stretching and be sure to breathe fully and deeply.
8. Invert Again
Before going to bed, swing your legs up the wall (so that your hips are against the wall and your back is on the bed). If you have any tightness in your lower back or the backs of your legs, scoot your pelvis a little further away from the wall until you feel at ease. Rest here for 5-15 minutes.
Chew a few capsules (follow the recommended dosage on the bottle) right before bed for the first 3-5 nights in your new time zone. This helps to restore your natural sleep cycle.
I know it sounds like a lot; but it's worth it to feel good when you get to wherever you're going. Let me know if there are any of your own tricks that I have missed and you find helpful.
Next time I will include a video yoga practice to boost your immune system during winter months.