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Jet Lag AdviceOur internal body clock is regulated by circadian rhythms that respond to daily light/dark cycles. When we travel over time zones, these abrupt changes confuse your body clock and cause what is referred to as jet lag. Symptoms of jet lag include fatigue, sleep problems, irritability, queasiness, upset stomach, headache, and grogginess or difficulty concentrating. Jet lag symptoms appear to be more severe when flying east or crossing three or more time zones.

To prevent jet lag, follow these tips:

  • Start out well rested.

  • Drink plenty of water.
    Dehydration worsens the symptoms of jet lag; so try to drink at least eight ounces of non-caffeinated fluids before, during, and after your flight. Go easy on the alcohol and caffeine; besides dehydrating you, they will also disturb your sleep pattern.

  • Set your clock to your destination.
    As soon as you arrive at the airport, adjust your eating and sleeping to the new zone (or as close as possible). Eat breakfast even when it feels like dinner and force yourself to stay awake when all you want to do is sleep.

  • Sleep on the "red eye.
    If you're flying through the night, try to get some sleep even if you're not yet tired. Use earplugs, an eye mask, and an inflatable neck pillow. Dress in comfortable clothing and request a window seat so no one will step over you. To promote sleepiness, choose an evening meal high in carbohydrates such as fruits, sugars, and starchy foods such as bread, pasta, and rice.

  • Stay up if it's daytime at your destination.
    If it's daytime at your destination, force yourself to stay awake by reading a book, playing a game, or talking to your neighbors. Eat a high protein/low carbohydrate meal like meat, vegetables, and only small amounts of carbohydrates like bread, rice, and noodles. Caffeine (coffee, tea, and caffeinated sodas) may also help to keep you awake. But don't overdo the caffeine if you need to fall asleep soon.

  • If you're tired, take a short nap.
    If you arrive in the morning (which is your middle of the night), take a shower and change into your business clothes. If it's difficult to stay awake, take an afternoon nap of no more than three hours. You'll feel refreshed but still ready to go to bed at your new bedtime.

  • Take a walk during the day.
    Spend half an hour or so outside in the daylight walking around as soon as you arrive (or the next morning if you're arriving at night). For east to west travelers, take a walk in the late afternoon. Both the sunlight and the exercise will help to reset your circadian rhythms.

  • Pace yourself.
    If your schedule permits, save the important activities for when you have the most energy — in the morning after flying west and in the evening after flying east.

  • Talk to your doctor about medications.
    Some travelers take sleeping pills during the flight to induce sleep. Unfortunately, medications can cause disorientation the next morning. Be cautious of "natural" remedies. Dietary supplements, including so-called "natural remedies" for jet lag, are not regulated by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). Therefore, their claims do not have to be backed by research to prove effectiveness or long-term safety. While there are anecdotal reports of effectiveness, no studies have yet demonstrated that they relieve jet lag in a measurable way. Light resets the body's rhythms or biological clock in a more powerful way — and light offers no side effects or long-term safety issues.

Dr. Jo helps busy people stay healthy, sane, and productive through her books, articles, media appearances, and speaking engagements. She has presented more than 1000 programs to companies and conventions. Dr. Jo has written four books including: Dining Lean, How to Stay Healthy & Fit on the Road, and Dr Jo's No Big Deal Diet. Her Web site is www.drjo.com.

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www.drjo.com

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