Jet lag is basically our body’s own way of letting us know that it’s out of sync with local time. Planning a vacation is stressful and time-consuming enough – Between coordinating everyone’s calendars, packing, planning excursions, booking hotels and so on, we don’t want to throw jet lag in the mix on top of it all! We want to make sure that jet lag doesn’t get in the way of you enjoying your next vacay!
What is jet lag?
Jet lag happens when the body’s natural circadian rhythm doesn’t match up with the external environment as a result of travel across time zones. Essentially, jet lag happens when changes in our environmental cues (such as light, temperature and meal times) conflict with our body’s existing patterns. In a way, it’s our body’s response to something unnatural. Sure, it’s common these days to hop on a plane and travel long distances, but that doesn’t mean it’s normal to our physiology. When you think about it, we’ve only had the opportunity to travel across time zones via airplanes for a few decades, and humans haven’t evolved to be able to adjust as quickly to these rapid changes in time – Even a quick trip across one time zone can cause jet lag and affect our body.
Jet lag can show up in many different ways. It can mess with our sleep, hormones, appetite, energy levels, immunity, stress, digestion, sex drive and more. Changes in our sleep cycle can also throw off our circadian rhythm aka our internal body clocks!
Here are some things you can do to avoid jet lag and keep your circadian rhythms in check while you travel:
1. Practice sun training
Research has shown that light exposure before, during, and after you fly can affect your ability to sleep and consequently, the severity of our jet lag. Ideally, to optimally synchronize our body clocks when we arrive at our destination we should stare at the sun when it’s rising, have it directly above our head at 12pm each day, and watch the sunset. Watching the sunset while on vacation? Is there anything more relaxing anyway? Doing this is actually strategic, as it sends the correct signals to our brain, alerting our body that it’s either time to be awake or asleep.
2. Adjust your sleep hygiene
Sleep hygiene refers to the things you implement to promote a healthy sleep. In preparation for our new time zone, we want to make sure that we’re not exposed to light during night time in our new destination and are awake in the morning of our new destination. Since light exposure at specific times can help regulate our circadian rhythm, we can slowly start to train our body’s a few days before our travel plans (stay up a little later or go to bed a little earlier), and if we’re unable to, we can at least do this on the plane ride over. To help us sleep, we recommend doing things like getting a sleep mask and ear plugs, avoiding blue light (aka staring at a screen) a few hours before you plan on going to bed, and practicing relaxation techniques.
3. Stay extra hydrated
Ever notice how on a plane you tend to get dehydrated? Dehydration can worsen the symptoms of jet lag, and it’s very common while travelling by air, so make sure to stay adequately hydrated when you travel. Moreover, try to avoid caffeine and alcohol before, during and after your flight – Contrary to popular belief, alcohol actually disturbs our sleep, and since you might be adjusting to a new sleep schedule, caffeine will also keep you awake, in addition to dehydrating you! Our favourite way to take our hydration “to go” is by using a Berkey water bottle to filter out any impurities from the water fountains at the airport – PLUS, it saves us from buying the over-priced plastic bottles!
4. Upgrade your melatonin supplement
Many people, especially frequent travelers, take melatonin to support their sleep in order to prevent jet lag. If you’re not familiar with it, melatonin is the hormone in our body that is released at night to help us sleep (that is, if our circadian rhythm is in check). For an external temporary sleep support, we recommend Insomnitol Chewables to support a deeper, restorative sleep. These tablets also contain vitamin B6, inositol and l-theanine to further help calm brain activity to help you fall asleep and STAY asleep.
5. Switch up your eating habits
When travelling to a different time zone, changing the time we eat and the amount of food we eat is important. Try planning your meals to coincide with your new time zone as much as possible. In the first few days of travelling, we recommend sticking with smaller meals – It’s important to avoid having large meals because our digestive enzymes, which help break down and digest food, are also on a circadian clock so our digestive system might not be primed to digest a huge portion when our body think’s it’s the middle of the night.
6. Practice grounding
Grounding, also known as “earthing”, refers to making direct contact between your bare feet and the ground. According to many wellness experts, the benefits include helping you soak up the earth’s negative charge, which in turn is known to reduce inflammation, refresh our mind and body, promote better quality sleep and even help with jet lag. So needless to say, if you’re going somewhere warm, going for a barefoot walk on the beach is a good idea! If you’re not travelling any time soon, don’t worry! There are other grounding techniques like eating root veggies or listening to relaxing, calm nature sounds such as waves crashing, birds chirping etc. that have the same amazing benefits!
If you implement any of these tips, let us know how it goes!
About The Movement Boutique in Toronto – Pilates, Chiropractic, Functional Medicine
Located on Yonge Street in Toronto, The Movement Boutique serves the areas of Summerhill, Rosedale and Yorkdale with Pilates classes and much more. Our philosophy is centred on a holistic, multimodal approach to health, grounded in the latest therapeutic techniques and clinical research. Our approach: Optimal health cannot be attained through a single therapeutic lens; injuries are often the result of a constellation of lifestyle issues, including dysfunctional movement patterns, trauma, nutritional deficiencies or destructive habits of mind.