I’ve been fortunate mainly through sport to have done a lot of travel in my life. This week I’m travelling again and its totally engaged my athlete brain with the tips I learnt to beat jetlag quickly. I love to travel. As an athlete, I always wanted to recover from a long-haul flight as quickly as possible so I could get into quality training in preparation for a competition. I wanted to shake that fuzzy brain and led like feeling in my legs asap! Now I just want to get rid of jet lag as quickly as possible to make the most of a destination and my reason for being there.
Crossing time zones and altering our body’s circadian rythms (our sleep and wake cycles over 24 hours). Jetlag affects us all in different ways. Whether it’s feeling totally lethargic feeling wide awake in the middle of the night or even a loss of appetite jet lag is a pain in the behind. Whilst you can’t totally eliminate jetlag according to the experts there are certainly ways to decrease it dragging you down….
Our build in circadian rhythms are thrown out of kilter when we fly. Our circadian rhythms are heavily influenced by sunlight exposure and help determine when we sleep and when we are awake
Your body functions best when it’s hydrated. Chose water as your best option. Staying away from caffeinated drinks and alcohol which act as stimulants is a sensible option. Having a water bottle on hand is a must in your carry on as part of your travel essentials. Personally, I love herbal teas and make sure I have a few tea bags on hand when I travel long haul.
Find the sunlight
It is so tempting when you’re tired after a long-haul flight to crawl into bed. In terms of adjusting your body clock it is best to be outside. To feel the sun on your skin and let your eyes adjust to the brightness. Sunlight is a powerful stimulant for regulating your circadian rthyms.
Set watch early to new time zone
If a competition for an athlete is quite close off the plane an athlete may start to adjust time zones before they leave their homeland. If that’s a bit hard out for you I would recommend setting your watch to the new time as soon as you hop on the plane. It will help your brain change its thoughts around your new time at your destination.
Keep moving on the plane…keep moving off the plane
Staying active on the plane reduces stiffness and contributes to your overall wellbeing. There is also research around the prevention of a deep vein thrombosis occurring by doing small exercises on the plane. Check at the back of the inflight magazine if you don’t know what to do. If you’re prone to cankles (swollen ankles) this may help pump fluid back to your heart faster to reduce swelling.
Being active off the plane with gentle exercise not too close to your bedtime is a great way to reset your body clock. If you can do this outside it’s even better. Personally, I like to stroll when I get to my accommodation checking out the area if possible and seeing the sunlight in the process. I tend to avoid high intensity exercise immediately off the plane to allow myself to recover and reset.
Use the flight to re-set and restore
I’m not sure about you but generally the to-do list is quite long when leaving home. At times this can be stressful. The less stress you are under when you fly the better for your jet lag on the other side.
Avoid heavy meals just prior to bedtime which may keep you up with a ridiculously full stomach. When you eat well you feel good for longer than you would you if you made an instant gratification meal choice.
I did use pharmacological aids when I was competing. I used them on the flight and also for the first few days if I was travelling to a northern hemisphere destination as I am based in New Zealand. These were obviously prescribed by my doctor and physiologist. One gem I did used to take was melatonin. Melatonin is a naturally secreted hormone that regulated the cycle of sleeping and waking. There is evidence to suggest that melatonin my help reset your sleep and wake cycle.
The ability to travel is a luxury. By nature, kiwis are explorers. Being at the other end of the world means at times we have a go a long way to see other countries. Being able to maximize the travel time by doing your best to reduce jet lag will help you make the most of your stay and the opportunity to see the world.