Modern Day Travel
Tusker Trail’s online magazine, TUSKER GEOGRAFICA, reaches out to 13,000 travel enthusiasts every month. One thing that pretty much all of our readers have in common, aside from a love of travel and adventure, is almost all of them have experienced the unwanted effects of jet lag during the course of their travels.
Jet lag, or circadian dischronism, is one of the big drawbacks of modern day air travel and can result in a feeling that is way beyond tired. It causes our internal clocks to be out of sync with the new external environment in which we have landed. Depending on a number of factors, it can take anywhere from a day to a few weeks to adjust to a new time zone. For most travelers, whether they are on a business or pleasure trip, or just returning home, jet lag can put a serious damper on fully being able to engage in desired activities.
When you fly across one or more time zones, there are many different ways in which jet lag can cause you to pay a price.
Paying the Price
If it isn’t bad enough that jet lag can make you feel tired and in a daze, consider some of the other disruptive effects that many travelers frequently complain about.
Victims of jet lag commonly experience a general decrease in awareness and motivation, disrupted sleep after travel, dehydration, discomfort in joints especially around the legs and feet, poor circulation, irritability and headaches. A study by the World Health Organization has revealed that jet lag weakens the immune system, throws our body clock out of whack and makes travelers far more susceptible to cold and flu. Our body clock is basically a small cluster of cells that govern temperature, heartbeat and physiological patterns and generally speaking, the more time zones a traveler crosses, the greater the disruption to it.
Without a doubt, the stresses of flying inflict harm on the delicate nature of the human body. The most obvious problem with flying is the lack of fresh air circulating. Airline cabins have a very dry atmosphere and easily cause dehydration in the body. Altitude and pressure systems also create disturbances in the body. Sitting still for long periods of time in cramped areas is not only stressful physically, but also causes mental anguish in many people. And the constant drone emitted by aircrafts is enough to drive anybody round the bend.
With all the problems associated with jet lag, it’s enough to make you occasionally ask, why should I even fly? With a little planning, you can greatly minimize the effects of this unwanted condition and be good to go no matter where in the world you land.
Combat the Lag
There are many ways to reduce the unwanted effects of jet lag.
One of the best things you can do for yourself before you board a plane is to have all of your business and personal affairs in order. If there is anything that is causing you stress or worry, it can intensify the effects of jet lag. While it is largely a personal preference, many travelers find that daytime flights are much better for them than night flights. Airline carriers are increasingly adding day flights to their schedules. While onboard, drink plenty of fluids, especially water. It is a far better choice than caffeinated beverages and fruit juices. Staying hydrated will go a long way towards combating many of the effects of jet lag. Even though they can be tempting for some, especially on long international flights, make sure to avoid alcoholic beverages that dehydrate the body.
There are a number of products on the market that can make a flight more comfortable. Items like pillows, neck pads, ear-plugs and blindfolds are often traveler favorites. Take off your shoes in a plane to ease pressure on and relax your feet. On long flights, don’t sit the entire time; get up and move around, lightly stretching the body to increase circulation and keep form getting stiff. On stopovers, get of the plane and take a walk if possible. During extended stopovers, sometimes you will find yourself in an airport that has showers. A warm shower can increase circulation and allow you to get better rest for the night. There are also various anti-jet lag products on the market including No-Jet-Lag, a homeopathic preparation. Some of them are safe and some travelers never leave home without them. Unfortunately, many travelers resort to taking sleeping pills before a flight. This is something that should never be done.
Avoid the Pills
Many travelers, thinking they are doing themselves a favor, visit their doctor before a trip to get sleeping pills for the flight. But the truth is they are only making matters worse.
Often times doctors have no problem granting patients their wishes with prescriptions before travel. But sleeping pills can be one of the most dangerous things you can do to try and combat jet lag. They have a drastic effect on the body, inducing a comatose state. They create a condition in the body that allows for little or no natural movement. Prolonged immobility, like on international flights, can lead to dangerous lack of circulation in the body and blood clots. In addition to the dehydration caused by cabin air and pressure, sleeping pills make dehydration far worse.
There are many good and natural ways to reduce the effects of jet lag so make sure to utilize them and stay away from the sleeping pills.
Seeing the Light
Our very own Eddie Frank, after 40 years of international travel, reckons he’s figured out how to lick the lag – with sunlight. He always arrives at his trekking destinations a week before leading a trip. During that week he makes a point of spending multiple continuous hours outdoors in the direct sunlight. Eddie says that by using this technique, he has virtually eliminated all jet lag, and falls instantly into the local time zone.
Traveling can be the adventure of a lifetime, but it also has its pitfalls. Planning ahead for jet lag and your health in general can make or break a trip. Take great care of yourself before, during and after travel and you will enjoy the experience so much more.