Travelling is one of my favourite things to do. I love getting on planes, exploring new countries, learning and challenging myself, and getting completely absorbed in the local culture. I’ve been fortunate enough to travel overseas from an early age and now more regularly with work. The hardest part to contend with is the 3-5 days of jet lag that you get at either end of the trip.
When we travel across two or more time zones it alters our internal clock, otherwise known as our circadian rhythm. It is responsible for regulating our sleep wake cycle and is influenced by eating habits, melatonin and a host of other factors including stress. This alteration may result in broken sleep, daytime fatigue, mood changes, difficulty concentrating, altered blood glucose levels, changes in hunger and bowel habits.
While it does go away eventually, there are ways to help the body adapt more quickly to the new time zone meaning you can make the most out of your trip sooner! Here are 4 all natural tips for you to try on your next adventure.
1. Stay hydrated particularly while on the plane
From experience I recommend drinking at least 2L of water per 14 hours. That means if it’s a 6 or 7-hour flight, at least 1L and if it’s the 24 hour long haul, aim for 3-4L. The dry air conditioning in the cabin increases dehydration, which naturally increases your requirement for water. Drinking lots of water through the flight also gets you up and out of your seat so you can reduce your risk of deep vein thrombosis. Avoid excess alcohol and caffeine as they increase dehydration and effect sleep and bowel habits. You can bring a bottle with you (depending on where you’re flying to) and ask the flight attendants to fill it up when needed. Continue to stay hydrated in your new destination too as it helps reduce feelings of fatigue.
2. Adjust your sleeping and eating patterns whilst on the plane to the time at your destination
For example if you are going to land at 2pm in San Francisco from Sydney, try to get some sleep in the first half of the flight, followed by a meal around San Francisco breakfast time and save lunch for when you land. When sleeping, try wearing an eye mask and earplugs or headphones (ideally noise cancelling ones) to help reduce the drone of the plane and any sleep disruption from staff and fellow passengers. It also helps to change the time on your phone/watch to the destination time to get onto the new zone. Just don’t forget to change them if you have a stopover…don’t want to miss that connection!
Exposure to the sun is so important in reducing jet lag. While this is not always possible when flying, if you do have sun outside and it’s daytime currently at your destination, fly with the shades up as much as possible and vice versa. If it’s night, shades down and sleeping with an eye mask will help. Once you land, get out in the sunlight as soon as possible and keep yourself active and busy that first day particularly. You can take a rest around 4pm but aim to go out for a dinner that night, even if it’s an early one. If you land at night, reduce your exposure to bright lights and blue light from technology to avoid sleep disturbances.
4. Bowel habits
Ok so this is something we can’t intentionally control but what I can recommend is to keep the bowels moving regularly. Fibre and adequate hydration will be of great benefit here. Fruits and vegetables provide you with the fibre you need so consume these regularly on the plane but also in your new destination. I know it can be hard to eat a lot of vegetables when in another country but make it a priority and your body will thank you for it. You can also travel with fibre such as psyllium husk or other fibre powders but note that these might have to go in checked baggage as there is a 350g limit to powders in carry on. Another option that works well but might not be for everyone is having a colonic before you leave and when you get home. Ideally the day before or day of and within 2 days of landing back home. This helps clear out the bowels, avoids jet lag related bowel issues and is another way to help the body reset to the new time zone.
If you have any anxiety around travelling or sleeping on planes or suffer from jet lag badly, please make an appointment to discuss this with a naturopath as there are some lovely herbs and supplements that can be included in a holistic plan to support you on your journey.
Words By Danielle @the_holistic_pursuit