Oh the joy of traveling far, far away. Immersing yourself in new cultures, eating strange delicious food, admire wonderful landscapes and diving deep into crystal clear waters. What’s not to love? Well let me tell you exactly whats not to love. You see, there is this one thing about traveling that sucks. That one souvenir you really don’t want to take home (besides Malaria or Dengue of course): The Jetlag.
A Jetlag is a horrible malfunction in your circadian rhythms caused by flying through several time zones. Basically, your body doesn’t have a clue what time it is and how to function accordingly. Some people deal with jetlags only when flying to the West, some only when time traveling to the East. The latter applies to me. It was impossible to sleep during the nights, impossible to function during the days. Eating was out of the question thanks to a 24/7 nauseousness and my brain refused to function. Oh, and don’t even get me started about the shaking and the instant sweat attacks. Ugh. Other common symptoms of jetlag are dehydration, irritability, headaches, stomach problems.
All of the above is not really convenient when you have to go straight back to work (or to school or any other obligations) after returning from the trip of a lifetime. Now, apparently there are some precautions you can take before starting your flight (no alcohol, no caffeine, lots of water, enough movement during the flight) but that doesn’t change the fact that you are traveling through time and space in a pace that your body can’t keep up with. I was in no way aware of the fact what a jetlag can do to you and had to learn the hard way. I tried a number of things and here’s what kinda helped. (and I hope it might help you too!) I call it AMEM. Acceptation, Meditation, Exercise and Medication (oh, this sounds like some advice from a self-help book).
You’ll feel tired, restless and unmotivated (hell, I was on the verge of a depression). You can fight this, trying to get back into your normal rhythm as soon as possible forcing yourself to feel better. But let’s be honest, that isn’t going to happen. So, just accept the whole thing and let yourself feel shitty for a few days. If you don’t feel tired at night, don’t go to bed super early hoping you will get your cycle on track faster. You’ll only lie awake, frustrated about the fact that the sleep won’t come. Realise it’s a jetlag and that it will move on soon enough.
“A Jetlag is a horrible malfunction in your circadian rhythms caused by flying through several time zones”
The perfect way to calm your head down and to make you feel peaceful. And peaceful is exactly the state of mind you need when your body is confused. Also, meditation helps with the acceptation as well. By doing this before you want to go to bed (but don’t feel sleepy) it helps your body and soul to at least go into resting mode. And maybe you can do it even during the day if you feel restless and have troubles finding your focus (I never tried this, too afraid that my colleagues would look at me as if I turned into a complete flowerpower hippy while I was on holiday). Not so good in shutting your mind down? Try Welzen or Headspace, apps that will guide you into meditation (I can’t live without them).
Walk it off
I have a friend who travels a lot for work and flies into different timezones on a regular basis. Grom Hong Kong to Los Angeles and back to the Netherlands. His advise has always been; walk for an hour (at a good pace) as soon after you arrive back home. Even if you feel you can’t do a thing anymore. 1 hour, that’s all. Another person told me that swimming helps and some people go crazy at the gym for one hour. Back in 1987, a researcher from Toronto, Dr. Nicholas Mrosovsky, put a group of hamsters through an eight-hour time change, and then made half of them run on an exercise wheel in the new time zone while the others slept. The exercised hamsters adjusted to the new time zone in 1.5 days on average, while the sleepers took 8.5 days. Ok, we’re not hamsters but let’s go for it.
Don’t worry, I’m not advising you to go all out on drugs. But combined with acceptation and meditation, medication proved to be my friend during those 6 (!) days of horror. And by medication I mean Melatonine. This is actually is a hormone that regulates your circadian rhythms and helps you to feel sleepy. With taking additional Melatonine from a bottle, you help to trick your body into thinking it’s time to sleep. You can get Melatonine Forte (yeah, I needed the strong stuff, big time) at your local drugstore. Don’t take too much and just for a few days, it should be enough.
So fly, cross those time zones and remember to Accept, Meditate, Exercise and Medicate. Because for all the pure bliss that travelings brings, I’ll happily take that jetlag time and time again.
Have you ever experienced a bad jetlag? And how did you deal with it?