This may sound like an odd subject for a eco blog, but in truth a great deal of time and resources get wasted because we don’t prepare for jet lag nor do much to prevent it. It affects millions of travelers every year, including politicians, diplomats, business people and tourists.

It even helps start wars. Reportedly, Secretary of State John Foster Dulles thought jet lag was a factor in his decision to cancel an agreement for the US to bankroll the Aswan Dam project, which may have led to the Suez Crisis. (Discussed in “Wide Awake at 3 am” by Richard Coleman, MD, and http://judson.blogs.nytimes.com/2009/04/14/guest-column-who-put-the-lag-in-jet-lag/.)

They say it takes one day for our biological clock to adjust for every time zone crossed. So when traveling from San Francisco to Boston, a 3-hour time difference, it takes the average person 3 days to normalize.

In October, on the first leg of this trip, from SFO to BOS, a three hour differance, it took me a week before I started to feel like my usual positive self. I had trouble sleeping at night. I had trouble staying awake during the day. At times I walked around in a fog, and felt blue and ineffective. This was quite unfortunate given I am traveling for work.

Last week, after 10 days on the East Coast and 5 days in Cairo, (six hours different from the East Coast), my associates took me out for an Egyptian birthday feast on a Nile river boat. I was still punchy due to days of poor quality sleep. Now in Holland, I am again starting to feel normal but soon it will be time to go home. Hence the jet lag research.

In summary, research suggests some of  the best ways to moderate jet lag are:

A)   Four days before your flight, slowly shift your eating and sleeping periods to or toward your destination time zone pattern.
B)    Drink lots of water, and minimize or avoid stimulants such as alcohol and caffeine – especially during the flight since they affect your biological clock and dehydrate.
C)    While on the plane, stretch in your seat as well as while walking about. Try to move around the cabin every few hours.
D)   Avoid sleeping at times inappropriate for your destination.
E)    On arrival and over the next few days, try to get at least 30 minutes of uninterrupted sunlight and engage in light activities.
F)    Overcoming Jet Lag by Dr. Charles F. Ehret, which I got from my local library, suggests that four days in advance start alternating heavy meals one day and light meals another day. On heavy days eat protein rich breakfasts and lunches and carbohydrate dinners. He also recommends heavy meals on traveling day and the following day, then returning to your normal pattern. For further help, have a small amount of coffee, black tea or chocolate everyday at 6pm because they contain a chemical, not caffeine, which helps reset your body clock.

Resources

The Cure for Jet Lag, by Lynne Waller Scanlon and Dr. Charles F. Ehret, Ph.D., 2009

The rewritten, reformatted and updated version of the outdated, international best-seller, Overcoming Jet Lag, that sold hundreds of thousands of copies when first published. Dr. Ehret was the world’s leading chronobiologist. Very famous among his colleagues and the airline industry, particularly, pilots. He devoted 30 years of his life to studying man’s daily or circadian rhythms. His discoveries led to government-sponsored research into a natural cure for jet lag. The U.S. Army Rapid Deployment Forces use his methodology, as do US Olympic athletes and international executives who have known about the book for years.

www.jetlagprevention.com: A easy to use website that appears to use Dr. Ehret’s system to create personalized schedule of jet lag prevention.

Wide Awake At 3 AM ,by Richard Coleman, MD.  One of my favorite books, it can also be found at our library.

Medline , http://www.nlm.nih.gov/medlineplus/ency/article/002110.htm

From Medline; here are some tips to help prevent jet lag:

A)   Maintain a sensible bedtime schedule before your trip. Don’t avoid sleeping in order to make yourself tired.
B)    Consider going to bed earlier for a couple of nights before leaving if you are traveling east. Go to bed later for a couple of nights if you are traveling west.
C)    For short trips, maintain a schedule of eating and sleeping at your usual times, if possible, while at your destination. For longer trips, try to adapt to the time schedule to which you’re traveling before you leave. Set your watch to the new time as you begin the trip.
D)   While in flight, avoid sleeping at times that wouldn’t be appropriate for sleep at your destination.
E)    Make the most of any stopovers by making yourself comfortable and getting rest.
F)    Drink plenty of liquids, but avoid alcohol and caffeine.
G)   If you exercise regularly, continue to do so at your destination. Avoid exercising late in the evening, because it can keep you awake.
H)   For important events or meetings at your destination, try to arrive ahead of time to allow for the time difference.
I)      Melatonin, a hormone sold in supplement form at health food stores, may help decrease jet lag. While in flight, consider taking some melatonin (generally 3 – 5 milligrams) at the time at which it would be appropriate to sleep at your destination. Then try taking melatonin several hours before bedtime for several days once you arrive at your destination.

I have never taken Melatonin, but may try it soon. My daughter has had good luck with it. Keep in mind it is a hormone…

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