It’s early. My eyes, despite the weary signals from my brain refuse to close. A dull ache wraps itself around my head- “gotcha!” it hisses, spreading out around my temples. I move to sit up and the room begins to spin. Easing my way back down to my elbows, I am overcome with confusion.
There’s a sudden weight on my head. I turn to the right and spot the silhouette of my one year old, sitting bolt straight on the pillow and on my ponytail. He’s tugging at my hair and giggling maniacally. “Go to sleep,” I croak, reaching towards him. He dodges my grip.
The glowing red digits of the bedside clock reveal that it’s three-thirty. It’s three thirty am in Tokyo, but in New York, my home, it was two thirty in the afternoon.
My little one and I had just ploughed through a sixteen-hour journey, West to East. My mommy badge of courage was shiny and on full display as I had survived flying solo with a one year old. I had endured a sixteen-hour journey without a single nap while catering to my son’s every need to ensure peace for those around me during the flight. He was an angel (of course) and I still had my sanity, but now we were stuck, the ruthless bully known as jet lag was giving us a beat down.
As a result I found myself that first night, baby on hip, strolling the streets of Tokyo at three thirty in the morning, feeling and looking like a zombie. We strolled for two hours. We watched the sun come up. By noon, we had passed out in a heap. This was not the start I had envisioned for my trip.
I promised myself that this would be the last time I would be caught off-guard by jet lag. I was going to educate myself and I was going to fight back!
Jet lag refers to the discrepancy between your internal clock and the external time zone. The bully jet lag manifests itself both physically and mentally.
Some Common Jet Lag Symptoms:
Simply put, jet lag sucks! It can take a solid three to four days to recover. The worst jolts occurring when you travel West to East, as it is typically easier to stay up later than it is to go to sleep earlier.
But there is good news on the horizon. There are simple things that everyone can do to combat jet lag. You can shorten the duration and severity of jet lag or even in some cases wipe it out all together and you don’t need to use drugs.
Five Ways to Fight Jet Lag:
1) Hydrate! Drink plenty of water before, during and after your flight. A good rule of thumb is two 8 oz. glasses before your flight and a liter of water for every hour you spend in the air. Avoid consuming alcohol and caffeine, as they tend to dehydrate. This will help combat the dizziness and nausea and for the sake of vanity, the dry skin, lips and hair you can sometimes experience in flight.
2) Consume light meals before and during your trip. Try to avoid heavy food that settles in the stomach. You aren’t as active when you are in flight and your body has to work twice as hard to digest your meals, which can leave you feeling sluggish and lethargic.
3) When you arrive at your destination, take a quick hot shower, followed by a quick cold rinse. This will stimulate your circulation and get your blood flowing. You’ll feel awake and invigorated.
4) Take a quick 30-minute to 1-hour nap to re-set and then get up and get out there. If you sleep for more than an hour, you run the risk of disturbing your night’s sleep.
5) Be as active as possible before the flight. Move your body, stretch, take a yoga class. When you’re on the flight, get up and walk the aisles, stretch your legs and take standing breaks. Do your best to go through as many motions as possible. Pack a toothbrush and brush your teeth before you attempt to sleep, wash your face, comb your hair, fight for normalcy even though there is nothing normal about soaring above the clouds in an airtight vessel for ten, fifteen, twenty or more hours. When you move about the cabin, try to be cognizant of the time zone of your destination and schedule your activities (naps, tooth brushing, snacks) to fit into your new time zone.
With so much to do and see when you travel, it’s no fun to be debilitated by jet lag.
Before leaving Japan for New York, I did my research and was ready. I drank water, I walked the airport before my flight, and I spent more time walking my little one up and down the aisles of the plane. I channeled my inner ballerina and did a series of plies to keep my limbs lively. When I got home, I hopped in the shower, took a one hour nap and what do you know… I was groggy, I had a bit of a headache, but I fell back in step much easier. There were no three am strolls up and down the streets of Brooklyn. I had made peace with the enemy, a looming 13-hour time-gap, and am ready to plan my next trip.
How do you fight jet lag?