Here are some great natural ways to cure jet lag if you love to travel. Flying is a particularly enticing variant on this, as the guilt you may associate with your increased carbon footprint can easily be offset by the excitement of going somewhere far away, in a giant metal ship in the sky. But the further your flight takes you, particularly if you’re travelling east rather than west, the more you’ll have to pay for it in fatigue, muscle ache and insomnia when you arrive.
This is the bugbear we call jet lag. The reason it is so much worse travelling eastwards is that jet lag is caused by disruption to our circadian rhythm – the body’s internal clock, which adjusts your system according to the regularity of the light around you. This ‘daily’ clock actually runs a cycle of a little over 24 hours, so when you travel westwards – creating an artificially longer day – you are at least working with that internal timer to some extent.
But when you travel east, the shorter day is a shock to the system. If you’ve ever seen how disoriented the birds get during an eclipse, you’ll recognize the phenomenon. And the thing is, even if you’re travelling west, it probably means you’re going to fly back eastwards again. There’s no avoiding jet lag if you want to fly across multiple time zones – but learning to manage your body’s relationship with these circadian rhythms is a superb way to minimize the damage upon landing.
Natural ways to cure jet lag
The natural remedies you can try won’t all feel very natural. When you see that fresh linen in your hotel room, even if it’s 10 in the morning your ‘natural’ instinct will probably be to get your head down for something not too far short of eternity. But your conscious intellect doesn’t always know what your primal operating system really needs.
You’re going to need a good combination of natural light and good nighttime sleep (at least four hours) that first day after landing, which means a daytime nap of no more than twenty minutes should be your limit. Whether you take it first thing on arrival or try to hold out a while is up to you, but as far as possible try to avoid self-medicating with coffee because this will also compromise the quality of that long-awaited good night’s sleep when it comes.
You can actually stimulate your body and mind to a better level of wakefulness by engaging in light exercise, so do some yoga or go for a walk to get that blood pumping and fill your lungs with oxygen – but don’t do it too close to bedtime, as again it can disrupt your sleep. A warm morning shower and a cold evening shower can also force-reset your body’s sleep timer to the new time zone, as the temperature changes can trigger the desired release of the melatonin hormone to get you back on track.
Natural ways to cure jet lag is to bathe in sunlight
The most natural way to retrain your body, though, is to bathe it in sunlight. This is good news if you’ve travelled somewhere hot for a relaxing holiday, but not so good if your journey eastwards has deposited you back in your gloomy hometown with a day in the office ahead of you. Still, you can think about switching out those light bulbs for daylight LEDS, or – if this kind of travel is frequent for you – trick your body’s light receptors at source by investing in a pair of Re-Timer glasses whose soft green light has been academically proven to help regulate sleep patterns.
Once you’re actually in bed (after dark, of course) you can use traditional methods to try and get as close to that solid eight hours as possible – use an eye mask and earplugs to block out potential disturbances, and also consider packing an unwashed pillow case from home. Used on a hotel pillow, the scent of home can subconsciously influence your body’s defensive mechanisms into feeling safer, and thus achieving a deeper sleep.
These solutions can give you a good, balanced start in your fight back against the tyranny of jet lag. Of course, you can try to pump yourself up with pharmaceuticals and coffee, but it’s not going to be kind to your system in the long run. Researchers even discovered that hamsters who were administered with Viagra after long flights had their jet lag reduced, although with predictable side-effects (it is not noted whether the rodents took advantage of the improved circulation to their nether regions once they checked into the their tiny hamster hotels).
But while that may be an appealing remedy for randy pets, you can be a lot kinder to your system in the long run by aligning your behavior with the broader machinations of the natural world. For more ideas on how to do so, check out this elegant new infographic, and prepare to take control of those first critical hours after landing.