Natural Remedy for Jet Lag

Whether you're flying to Europe for a much-needed vacation, across the country to visit family or friends, or just travel a lot for business, who wants to waste their trip adjusting to a new time zone?

Jet lag occurs after air travel across several time zones. It's caused by the body's circadian rhythms being out of sync with the local destination time.

Symptoms of jet lag are temporary and include insomnia, irritability, indigestion, and disorientation in the days following air travel.

How long does jet lag normally last? Count on about one day to adjust to each time zone crossed. For example, a flight from New York to London crosses 5 time zones, so it would take roughly 5 days to recover. 

Traveling eastward, such as from the United States to Europe or from Europe to Asia, generally causes more severe jet lag than traveling westward.

Are there any jet lag remedies that can help avoid or minimize jet lag? Here's a rundown of some promising remedies that may help to prevent and diminish jet lag symptoms.

1) Melatonin

Melatonin is a hormone secreted by the pineal gland in the brain. One of melatonin's key jobs is controlling the body's circadian rhythm–our internal clock that plays an important role in when we fall asleep and when we wake up. 

Melatonin release is tied to the amount of light there is. When it gets dark at night and we turn out the lights, melatonin release is stimulated. Light suppresses melatonin release. When we cross time zones and are suddenly exposed to excessive light when it's normally our bedtime (even a three-hour time difference can do it), our melatonin cycles are disrupted and we experience jet lag until our circadian rhythms adjust to the new environment.

Melatonin supplements are thought to help the body quickly adjust to the new surroundings. Although it is found in 30 mg pills, most practitioners agree that the lowest dose possible should be used and it should only be taken for a short time. There have no long-term studies on the safety of melatonin. Higher doses may cause side effects such as vivid dreams and nightmares. Besides, a Rush University study found no difference between 0.5 mg and 3 mg melatonin.

For jet lag, practitioners generally suggest taking a 0.5 mg tablet of melatonin a night for three nights, one hour before a normal bedtime. Research suggests that taking it once a person has reached the travel destination is sufficient, and that starting melatonin supplements prior to or during air travel may actually slow the recovery of jet lag, energy, and alertness.

2) Adjusting Sleep and Wake Time

Another strategy to avoid jet lag involves adjusting a person's bedtime and wake time to the destination time prior to traveling. It is generally started prior to travel and involves waking up and going to bed one hour progressively earlier/later (depending on which way you're traveling) each day for three days. 

If traveling eastward, this means going to sleep one hour earlier than normal on day one and waking up one hour earlier. On day two, bedtime would be two hours earlier and wake time would be two hours later. On the third day, bedtime would be three hours earlier and wake time would be three hours earlier. 

If traveling westward, bedtime would be one hour later than normal and wake time would be one hour later than normal and it would also increase progressively each day.

Additional Tips

  • If it's not possible to follow this gradual schedule, some readers suggest pre-adjusting to the new time zone a day in advance by setting your watch to your destination time the day before you travel and preconditioning yourself to the new time. If it is six hours later at your travel destination, this means waking up six hours earlier the day you travel and then going to sleep when it is nighttime at your destination. 
  • If you simply must nap, seasoned travelers suggest limiting naps to no more than an hour

3) Homeopathy

Homeopathic remedies are small vials of tiny pellets. They are made from minute dosages of naturally occurring substances which, in much larger doses, would produce the same symptoms in healthy people similar to those of the condition or disease. 

Homeopathic remedies are diluted to the point that they are no longer detectable, so they are not believed to be toxic or affect the way other medications are metabolized.

The most popular homeopathic remedy for Jet Lag is a product called No Jet Lag. It is available in health foods stores and some grocery stores, drug stores, and airport convenience stores. Some readers swear by it.

No Jet Lag contains the homeopathic remedies arnica montana (Leopard's bane), bellis perennis (Daisy), Chamomilla (Wild chamomile), Ipecacuanha (Ipecac), and Lycopodium (Clubmoss). Remember that homeopathic remedies are specially prepared and that regular, non-homeopathic doses of these substances can be toxic if taken internally.

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