Jet lag can be a drag. Depending on the direction of travel and the number of time zones crossed, it can leave you feeling groggy for an afternoon meeting or wide awake at 3:00 a.m. Dr. Russell Rayman, executive director of the Aerospace Medical Association in Alexandria, Virginia offers some tips on how to stop the problem before it gets off the ground.
Don’t drink and fly Avoid excessive alcohol consumption prior to and during a flight. The air on planes is dry and alcohol will further dehydrate you; plus, booze packs an extra punch because of cabin pressure. When you hit the ground you’ll likely hit the wall.
Get time on your side Most people adjust their watches to the destination time as the plane is taxiing to the runway. Take it a step further and set a clock to the new time several days in advance to help your mind adjust to the change.
Kill the catnap Try to adopt local sleeping and eating times as quickly as possible. “The worst thing you can do is arrive at 10 in the morning and go to sleep for five hours,” says Dr. Rayman. You’ll find it easier to adapt if you can book a late-afternoon or evening arrival and get a night’s rest before facing the workday.
Let the sun shine in If you do arrive during the day, Dr. Rayman suggests immediately exposing yourself to bright sunlight or artificial light if the sun isn’t cooperating. The light is therapeutic and can help reset a body clock that thinks it should be dark out.
Caffeine kick If you find yourself nodding off hours before your modified bedtime, have a cup (or two) of coffee to help get you through the evening. Light exercise will get the blood flowing and help keep you up.
Self medicate There are a number of over-the-counter and homeopathic remedies — including melatonin pills and the herb arnica — that are said to help stave off the effects of jet lag. Unfortunately, according to Dr Rayman, “There’s no solid evidence that these things really work.” That said, he does admit to having a friend who swears by melatonin. “He always takes it and adjusts very quickly,” says Rayman. “But how do I know if it’s the melatonin or if it’s a placebo effect? Either way, I can’t argue with success.”
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© 2003 Allan Britnell