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Jet lag is physical reaction to a rapid change in time zones. It affects most travelers, including seasoned fliers like flight attendants and pilots.
Common symptoms include disorientation, irritability, fatigue, swollen limbs and eyes, headaches, cold-like symptoms, and irregular bowels.
Dehydration, unfamiliar foods, cramped spaces, recycled air, lack of sleep, uncomfortable clothes, continual low-level noise, connections that
disrupt sleep, and other factors all add to the misery of jet lag, and can even make you feel jet lagged when you're just a little beat up.
Studies have also shown that jet lag is worse for travelers heading west, as opposed to
those traveling east.
On long flights, especially red-eye flights, you can lose several hours of sleep time,
which can set you back considerably even without the jarring time change. If you live by a
regular schedule (up at 7, in bed by 10 every night), watch out. Jet lag hits those with
rigid body clocks the hardest. For parents, be sure to bring along books and toys your
child can play with on his or her own, as kids are nearly immune to jet lag.
A general rule of thumb to keep in mind before any long trip is the 1:1 ratio: allow yourself
one day to recover for every hour time difference you experience.
Tips to fend off the effects of the long haul
Treat your body well before you fly. Exercise, sleep well, stay hydrated and stay sober. The worst
thing you can do is get on a long-haul flight with a hangover.
Some travelers like to exercise before they go to the airport. (This can actually help you sleep better
on the plane.) Once you're at the airport, avoid the escalators and moving sidewalks; instead, walk
and take the stairs on the way to your check-in area and gate connections.
Adjust your habits before you leave. If you are traveling from East to West , you're facing a three-hour
time change and you should try to adjust your internal clock. Three or four days before you leave,
start to stay up a little later than usual, and sleep in a little longer. That way, if you become
accustomed to falling asleep at 1 a.m. and waking up at 9 a.m. on the East Coast, it will be the same
as falling asleep at 10 p.m. and waking up at 6 a.m. on the West Coast. Traveling West to East, do
the opposite: get up and go to bed earlier.
Wearing two watches, one set to the current time, and one to the time at your destination, can help you
prepare yourself mentally for the coming time change. Many business travelers also use this tactic to stay in
touch with what's happening back at the office.
Get up out of your seat at regular intervals to walk and stretch. You can also do exercises like toe raises,
isometric exercises, stomach crunches and shoulder shrugs right in your seat. This keeps your blood
flowing and prevents it from pooling at your extremities, a common phenomenon in pressurized cabins.
During the Flight Perhaps the most effective way to combat jet lag
while in flight is to treat your body well. Stay hydrated by drinking
plenty of nonalcoholic, non-caffeinated fluids. Don't be afraid to ask
your flight attendant for extra water.
Other tips: Get up to wash your face, brush your teeth or just stand up for several
minutes. Wear loose-fitting clothing that breathes. Bring a neck pillow, blindfold or ear
plugs -- these are invaluable on red-eye flights. Also, avoid any snug footwear (high
heels or wingtips); it is quite possible that your feet will swell in transit, making your
post-flight trek to baggage claim a nightmare.
Dietary Tactics Restrict your diet to foods that are easily digested, like those that are
relatively high in fiber but not too rich. Fats tend to keep you awake, while carbs usually
put you to sleep. If you need to stay awake to help you get on local time, eat peanuts,
eggs, meats and other high-protein or fatty foods. If you need to fall asleep, eat carbs like
pasta or bread.
Caffeine is also useful if you need to stay awake, but don't go overboard. While it
might seem tempting to guzzle several cups of coffee when your eyelids begin to
droop, you could end up wide awake at 1 a.m. Be sure to use all dietary changes in
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