If, like most expats in the UAE, you jump on planes like other people catch buses (and have myriad ways to offset that to lower your carbon footprint, of course) you’ll know why overnight flights are called the red eye. You stumble off with bloodshot eyes, temples pounding, and a blotchy face along with another even more irritating symptom of air travel: jet lag.
Even if you don’t carry it off the plane, like hand luggage, it’s one of those feelings that will have crept up by the time you arrive at your hotel. We’ve all been there: the headache that won’t go, the fatigue and insomnia. Jet lag is a familiar phenomenon that we know and hate. You might have had a pleasant journey, even enjoyed a couple of movies and listened to your favourite albums with a glass of bubbly on the plane, but jet lag is a sibling of the hangover. The next day sucks.
So what’s the good news? Well, jet lag can be prevented and cured naturally though you still have to do your bit and say goodbye to your old time zone the moment you step off the plane. Your phone will update its clock automatically so take that as your lead.
The trouble only starts if you continue to eat and sleep according to where you’ve come from. Wait until the destination’s lunch time to tuck into a local dish, wait until bed time to sleep. Do not take naps and when you get the urge to reach for the double espresso, rest assured you can snap back to normality with a little TLC from Mother Nature. Here’s how…
Think Ahead of the Game
‘For every time zone change, it takes on average one day to adapt,’ says Dr. Steven Brass, a Californian-based neurologist who specialises in sleep medicine. He suggests adapting to your new time zone before you depart. ‘It can be challenging, but if you know you’ll be three hours’ ahead, start three days before.’ That means slightly shifting the time you go to bed, the time you wake up, and meal time, if possible.
The scent of lavender is known for its calming properties and some research suggests that the lavender aroma may improve sleep quality. Why not carry a little roll-on tube of lavender oil in your hand luggage? Dab onto the back of your neck and shoulders during a long flight. It will help to calm and relax your body, especially since you’re spending so long sitting upright.
Hydrate with Decaf
When you feel like a pick-me-up, stick to non-caffeinated drinks such as herbal teas or decaf coffee. Sure, your body might be used to a daily dose of caffeine, and you don’t have to deprive yourself; instead, drink it at the usual time you would in your home country, for example, only at breakfast or elevenses. Relying on caffeine to banish fatigue will drag your jet lag out for longer. Staying fresh and hydrated will nip it in the bud.
Eat a Banana
Combat that cranky restlessness that accompanies jet lag by munching on a good ol’ banana a couple of hours before bedtime. It contains magnesium and potassium that are natural electrolytes and can balance the salts in your body. A great night’s sleep awaits you.
Bring Me Sunshine
The sun is a super-cure because it adjusts your circadian rhythms. If you travelled west, get out in the morning light and try to avoid the afternoon sun. Or, if you travelled east, do the reverse. And if you’re up at the crack of dawn, get outside and make the most of it! You can even do this on the plane. When heading west, pick a seat where you can see the morning sun from your window, and avoid the sun later in the day by pulling the shutter down. Heading east? Why not seek that afternoon sun from an aisle seat?
Our bodies make this hormone naturally to help us regulate sleep cycles. As you travel through time zones, it can be hard for your body to adjust. Taking melatonin is a natural way to supplement what’s missing and you can buy this over the counter without prescription.
To banish your blues, you can’t go wrong with all things green! Packed with nourishment, a green juice gives you a helping hand to powering up fast. Blend celery, cucumber, kale and spinach with some green apple to sweeten it all up.
Hit the Gym
Surely not – you’re practically a zombie, right? But instead of stumbling past the hotel gym, consider stopping by. Or, if you like to run, seek out your new neighbourhood. ‘Though exercise itself doesn’t help jet lag, it does help improve sleep quality and provides energy, two things that suffer when you’re jet lagged,’ says Amy Shapiro, a dietitian and the founder of Real Nutrition. And to reiterate an earlier tip, mimicking your same routine from home will help a lot. ‘If you always exercise at 8am, try to exercise at 8am at your new location.’