How Can I Fight Jet Lag?
Kent Johnson, MD, is an internist and pediatrician on staff at Banner Estrella Medical Center. His office can be reached at (623) 535-5599. For more information, talk to your doctor, or call (602) 230-2273 (CARE).
Question: I have an upcoming trip out of the country and I tend to get really groggy after long flights. Can you recommend some simple ways to fight off jet lag?
Answer: Long flights and hopping across time zones can catch up to even the most frequent flyers. When we cross time zones, our bodies’ functions and schedules don’t automatically sync. It can take a few days for the body to fully adjust to a new time zone and environment, especially for those who tend to keep strict sleeping and eating schedules.
Along with fatigue and insomnia, irritability, anxiety, upset stomach, dehydration and headaches are also common symptoms of jet lag. To minimize jet lag, there are a few things you can do before, during and after a long flight.
- Before your flight: Get a good night’s sleep, don’t drink alcohol, and, as best you can, avoid sickness and undue stress. Other strategies include adjusting your sleep schedule and finding a flight that arrives at your destination during the day. Arriving at night can cause artificial tiredness.
- During the flight: Drink plenty of non-alcoholic fluids; stretch and exercise your legs by walking the aisles or performing various exercises in your seat; and, try to sleep.
- After your flight: Once you arrive at your destination, allow your body to adjust by scheduling in time to rest for the first few days. Try not to schedule meetings too early in the morning or late in the afternoon. If you feel sleepy during the day, take short naps. Of course, you can always call on caffeine for a little pick-me-up.
For those with a history of severe jet lag, try a prescription sleep aid for the first few nights in your new location. Try these medications before your trip, so you don’t try it for the first time in an unfamiliar place. Additionally, there is evidence that getting into water after your arrival can dramatically decrease symptoms of jet lag. Go for a swim, get in a hot tub, or take a bath. In addition to feeling more refreshed, you might have some fun and get some exercise along the way.
Speak with your physician before taking any medications or supplements, as well as about any health concerns.