What Is Jet Lag?
Sometimes it doesn’t matter where you’re going; it can be the holiday of your dreams, but if the flight is long enough, the time of departure and arrival is too strenuous and you find it difficult to sleep on the flight, jet lag can make your trip more of a burden than a minor detail on your way to a dream holiday.
Your body clock and natural sleeping rhythm are thrown out of whack and readjusting to the new time zone can leave you zombie-like when you get to the other side. There are, however, things that you can do to at least make yourself comfortable, if not beat jet lag altogether. What you consume plays a big part.
Jet Lag Symptoms
- Disturbed sleep – including insomnia, early waking or excessive sleepiness
- Daytime fatigue
- Difficulty concentration or remaining focused
- Stomach issues
- Mood changes
How To Get Over Jet Lag
Research has suggested that food plays as big a part of daylight in the body’s circadian rhythm. This is the psychological cycle in which certain processes happen in your body that allows you to effectively function. If daylight and long hours are a cause of jetlag, that means food could well be an answer to even the playing field.
Jet Lag & Hydration
Most important is hydration. When you fly you become seriously dehydrated. Humidity is the problem. Your body is usually best at around 40 – 70 percent humidity, but inside a plane cabin it’s around 20 percent and causes your eyes to itch and your nose and throat to dry out.
Whereas booze may help initially calm you on a flight and you may think it will sedate you for the duration as it would in the comfort of your home, on a flight it doesn’t work the same. It may take the edge off at first if you’re a nervous flyer but will later exacerbate the tiredness, weakness and irritableness of your jet lag and dehydration. The same goes for caffeine, which is a diuretic. The answer is water and lots of it throughout the flight. If you do have a cheeky drink or caffeine, just make sure you chase it with some water.
Second to water, fruit juices (not from concentrate) are your best bet for hydrating and restoring nutrients, and many recommend herbal teas. As mentioned, caffeine isn’t the friend you think it is on flights so follow up with water.
Best Food For Jet Lag
When it comes to food, you should, first of all, avoid anything salty so that it doesn’t dehydrate you. The next one to avoid anything too heavy or high in fat that is less easily digested. This can interrupt your sleeping pattern while leaving you physically tired.
Protein, complex carbs and plant-based foods are your allies. The best way to consume these is in lighter doses – little and often if it’s a longer flight. This approach will help you to more efficiently digest and metabolise them. Your aim should be to keep your energy levels up rather than tire yourself out with a big meal. For this, you should prepare with smaller snacks that you can keep at hand rather than waiting for the flight attendants to come by.
Some good ideas for your lunch box include cheese, yoghurt, snack bars, peanut butter, almond butter, nuts and whole grain crackers and bread. If you really want to be unsociable, a few hard boiled eggs would be good for you even if the smell is bad for everyone else.
Plant-based fruit and veg are good as they are a better source of carbs than refined, processed food while helping with hydration.
‘Superfoods’ have been proven to help the body cope with the those of jetlag. Lemons are good for dehydration, bananas are rich in potassium and magnesium making them good for relaxing, and cherries can help to reset your body clock. Quinoa can help by providing energy and easing digestive issues brought on by flying.
For people in need of sleep, goji berries and fresh ginger can help.
Jet Lag Prevention
While you’re limited by the number of fluids you can take in your carry-on luggage, whey protein and snack bars are perfect for surviving long haul flights.
Other research suggests that you should begin thinking about your nutrition and jetlag 12 hours before your flight. Begin with a light meal so that your blood sugar levels naturally drop as they do during sleep and then top up. Done this way, you may skip the in-flight meal – which you can replace with protein-heavy snacks of your own to keep you ticking over – and then be ready for your breakfast when you arrive in the new time zone the next morning.
The idea behind this is that whereas many people try their best to alter their sleeping patterns to suit the new time zone while in the air, you would instead alter your eating pattern.