All Posts tagged jet lag

Tackle Jet Lag

Tackle Jet Lag

Jet lag – those awful words! You can’t keep your eyes open long enough to snap that long-awaited vista. The hotel pool has a lovely swim-up bar, but you’d rather curl up in the room and sleep for hours. Most travelers have had at least one instance of this annoying condition while on vacation. Beating jet lag will give you back valuable time to enjoy your time away. Jet lag is a crafty thief. The groggy, sleepy, grumpy, not being able to concentrate on anything more than laying your head down on a pillow feeling steals away precious vacation and travel time.

What you want to do is go out and see the sights of the new place where you’ve just arrived. Instead, your body is telling you in no uncertain terms that you must waste hours sleeping until your body’s inner clock rights itself.

Sometimes jet lag presents itself during the night as insomnia. Other daytime symptoms include poor concentration, confusion, hunger at inappropriate times or lack of appetite, and general irritability.

The medical term for jet lag is desynchronosis. But what causes this combination of unpleasant feelings and disorientation? When your body moves faster than your inner clock can keep up – such as flying over several time zones – jet lag can occur. It’s your body’s way of resetting itself to your new surroundings. Typically jet lag is worse when flying from west to east, but for some people it can occur whenever multiple time zones are crossed.

We all agree it’s something we’d rather not deal with, so what can we do to avoid it? As the Travel Pharmacist, I’m often asked how to avoid jet lag or how to tackle it completely once you’ve arrived.

Here are a few tips…

BEATING JET LAG

1. Opt for the red-eye. If possible, schedule your flight so you’re sleeping when your body feels like it should be sleeping. Overnight flights allow more time for the body’s circadian rhythms to adapt.

2. Stay hydrated. Pressurized airplane cabins have the ability to drastically dehydrate the body and when you’re dehydrated, you don’t feel well. Keep sipping water throughout the flight.

3. Start a few days before the trip. If you’re going to be undergoing a long haul flight, it often helps to get your body used to the time zone changes ahead of time. Plan meals and bedtimes around the new time zone. This works especially well for young children who might not understand why they feel so bad after a long plane ride.

4. Avoid caffeine. While it’s tempting to keep the coffee supply coming, caffeine can be both dehydrating and disrupt normal sleep patterns.

5. Sleep on the plane. For this one, some people can and some people can’t. For those that can’t, ask your doctor about a prescription short acting sleep aid to get your body enough rest.

6. Avoid alcohol. Another major actor for dehydration and ruining sleep rhythms.

7. Set your watch to destination time and pretend you’re already there. This works very well for most people to decrease jet lag symptoms. As soon as you’ve on the plane, your watch and your mind are working together to put you in the new time zone.

But what if you’re already suffering from jet lag – is there any hope for relief? Yes!

TREATING JET LAG

1. Try over-the-counter melatonin. Melatonin is naturally secreted in our bodies and helps regulate our circadian rhythms so that we sleep at night. The suggested dose is 3 milligrams of melatonin an hour or two before bedtime at your destination. Then give yourself at least 9-10 hours to rest completely. You may wake earlier, but your body will have gotten the rest it needs.

2. Sunshine. Get outside in the sun as much as possible. Normal daylight will stimulate the body to produce chemicals you need for clearer brain function.

3. Take off your shoes and try earthing. While there isn’t a great deal of science to back this one up, many travelers find that putting one’s bare feet on the ground at your destination will stop jet lag in its’ tracks. It should be the actual ground outside and not a floor, and walking around for a few minutes wiggling your toes in the grass brings even more relief. I haven’t actually tried this one, but imagine it would be lots of fun.

4. Because a big part of jet lag is attributed to the body’s dehydration, sipping an oral re-hydration mixture may be the answer. Chock full of body-soothing electrolytes and salts, a product like RecoverORS can help put you back to normal. I also like RecoverORS to treat traveler’s diarrhea, heat exhaustion, sea sickness, and food poisoning. Overall, it’s a great travel health product to have around.

5. Coffee! The old standby that gets us through so many sleepy afternoons back home may also be helpful for combating daytime jet lag symptoms. The caffeine acts as a stimulant to kick the brain into full-functioning gear. Avoid too much caffeine after 3pm, as it may make it harder to sleep in the evening.

Here’s to Happy, Healthy Travels!

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The Traveling PharmacistAs with all medical conditions discussed on the Internet, check first with your doctor before using any alternative treatments.

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Sleep Tips to Beat Insomnia

Sleep Tips to Beat Insomnia

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You know the feeling. Tossing and turning all night, punching your pillow, and your mind just won’t let go – it’s insomnia. For many people, insomnia is a chronic condition they face with dread. Getting enough sleep at night is very important to maintain good health and high energy, especially when traveling. Without a good night’s sleep, your body and mind work at less-than-optimal productivity. Jet lag, travel delays, time zone shuffles, and stress/worry are just a few of the many factors that can cause this disorder. Insomnia affects nearly everyone at one time or another, so let’s see what we can do to get you snoozing again!

What is insomnia?

Insomnia is the inability to get enough quality sleep to feel rested. This includes being unable to fall asleep or to stay asleep, waking up very early, and/or not feeling refreshed after sleeping. Certain medications and medical conditions, excessive stress, or poor sleeping/bedtime habits all affect sleep quality. While the majority of insomnia cases can be directly traced to stressful or anxiety-producing life events, there are also insomniacs with depression, vitamin and mineral imbalances, and breathing difficulties.

Non-drug treatments

Developing good sleep habits is often one of the best treatments for this condition. Getting yourself back into a habit of going to bed at a regular time and avoiding stimulation (like exercise or caffeine) before bedtime may be enough to break the temporary pattern of sleeplessness. Relaxation techniques, dietary changes to include foods high in the amino acid tryptophan (bananas, turkey, cottage cheese, and milk), and a healthy lifestyle that includes exercise can all help you sleep more soundly.

A leading herb used for sleeplessness is valerian. Valerian root makes getting to sleep easier and increases deep sleep and dreaming. It does not cause a ‘morning hangover’ – a side effect common to some OTC sleep aids. Many people use 300 to 400mg of a concentrated valerian root preparation thirty minutes before bedtime.

Melatonin has also shown some success in getting sleep patterns back on track after experiencing JET LAG, but not for treating general insomnia.

OTC treatments

Sleep aids like Tylenol PM and Nytol contain the antihistamine diphenhydramine and may be effective in the short term. A word of warning about all diphenhydramine products – they can make you very, very sleepy and groggy! While this is great for getting sleep, it isn’t so nice when you find yourself having to navigate in a foreign county. Give yourself plenty of time to sleep and to get over the lingering groggy effects.

Although over-the-counter sleep aids may be useful for occasional treatment of insomnia, especially during traveling, it is not a good idea to use these products on a regular basis. These do not help with the underlying cause of insomnia and may become less effective after a few days of use.

Prescription treatments

For cases of insomnia that last longer than one month, prescription medications from your doctor may be in order. A class of drugs called sedative-hypnotics are commonly prescribed to treat chronic insomnia. Ambien (generic zolpidem) and Lunesta (generic eszopiclone) are two of the medications in this class that you’ll see most often. These work to help you fall asleep faster, though some people still report a groggy feeling the next day. Use care if taking these if you need to be sharp in the morning.

Here’s to getting back on track and sleeping well! Take care!

As with all medical conditions discussed on the Internet, check first with your doctor before using any alternative treatments.

Happy, Healthy Travels!

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