Guide to Getting Over Jet Lag

Man with a sleep mask and neck pillow with jet lag

In this article, we will discuss what is jet lag, what causes jet lag, and how to recover from jet lag. One of the more common human experiences, anyone who travels is likely familiar with jet lag. Jet lag can also make traveling less enjoyable or productive since it takes a few days to resolve. We will also discuss foods that help with jet lag and different strategies to improve energy, such as taking an energy supplement, and how to get a good caffeine boost.

What is jet lag?

Jet lag is no joke. According to the Mayo Clinic, jet lag isn’t just “a temporary sleep problem” experienced by travelers, but a full disorder called Jet Lag Disorder. Jet lag disorder is the sleeplessness suffered by people who travel quickly across time zones. The human body has an internal clock, called the circadian rhythms, that tells the body when it is time to sleep and time to wake up. When a person travels across time zones, this internal balance is upset, causing sleeplessness, daytime fatigue, feeling less alert, headaches, and general malaise. Jet lag can also upset the digestive system, which is synced up to the body’s internal clock. Jet lag becomes more severe the more time zones that are crossed. Besides being uncomfortable, jet lag impacts the reasons for travel, whether for business or pleasure. It is difficult to perform well at a work dinner when one’s internal clock is saying it’s three (or seven) hours past bedtime.

What causes jet lag?

Jet lag is caused by being in a new time zone. Our bodies have “An internal master clock”, according to Harvard University. This internal clock is a group of twenty thousand neurons located just above the optic nerve in the brain. These neurons control the circadian rhythm. The circadian rhythm regulates the function of body systems by responding to information from the environment such as light. Our internal clock can recalibrate itself, but it happens slowly, adjusting at a rate of about an hour per day. This is challenging for someone flying from New York to Hong Kong for a weekend trip because their body will not have enough time to adjust to the new time zone.

There are a few ways to help your body adjust to a new time zone and minimize jet lag. These are especially helpful if you’re only traveling a couple of time zones away or less. If you are traveling east, try adjusting your schedule by doing daily activities like waking up, and eating a few hours earlier. If you’re traveling west, try eating a little bit later and pushing your bedtime back by an hour or two. These small changes can help reduce jet lag by starting the re-synchronizing of your internal clock before the time zone change.

For more drastic time zone differences, it is important to stay well hydrated. Being well hydrated will ease the symptoms of jet lag. Try to stick to the new schedule by staying awake until it’s time for bed in the new time zone. Using nature to help calibrate the internal clock can be helpful; if waking up earlier than normal go out and get some morning sun. Similarly, if waking up later is what is needed, taking a walk in the late afternoon sun will help.

Harvard also suggests a 12-16 hour fast may help the circadian rhythm adjust more quickly. While more study is needed on humans, some animal studies have been done demonstrating that fasting triggers a reset of the circadian rhythms, as the body tries to conserve energy in the face of food scarcity. Fast the day before and during travel, and then enjoy a full meal once you have arrived at your destination.

Foods that help with jet lag

To reduce the symptoms of jet lag, it is important to stay hydrated, so avoiding or limiting alcohol, especially on the flight, can help. Some foods are helpful with recalibrating the circadian rhythm. Eating carbohydrates and protein for dinner can assist with recovering from jet lag, since they will help improve sleep, and carbohydrates especially will make going to sleep easier. Having a light snack of fruit before bed can make it easier to go to sleep, and there is always the classic mug of warm milk to assist with sleepiness. In general, fruits and veggies are full of fiber, water, vitamins, and antioxidants, which will help relieve the symptoms of jet lag.

Improving energy and Pocket Caffeine

When waking up many hours before a body is used to waking up, having an easy source of quickly absorbed caffeine, such as an energy gummy or an energy chew is a great way to help acclimate to a new time zone. Energy gummies, like Mocca Shots, fit in your pocket and are easy to use, which is helpful when dealing with jet lag-induced grogginess. Light exercise, according to Medical News Today can also help set the internal clock back or forwards, depending on when it is done. “Exercising at 7 a.m. or between 1 p.m. and 4 p.m. shifted the circadian rhythm to an earlier time while engaging in exercise between 7 p.m. and 10 p.m. pushed the body clock back.” Taking an easy to absorb caffeine chew like the Mocca Shot before the early morning workout can help make transitioning out of jet lag easier.

While there is no way to completely avoid jet lag, especially when traveling across several time zones, having some pocket caffeine in the form of the Mocca Shot energy gummy is a surefire way to make the trip more enjoyable.