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Friday, July 22, 2011

Jetting or Jetlagging?

Insider tips on how to avoid jetlag & keep on jetting

On Trek in Mustang, Nepal

            In this day and age, most people who contact us are just as concerned, if not more, with time than money.  Part of any adventure is getting away, enjoying time to ourselves, exploring and of course travel; but one of the most important parts of any trip is preparation, both for the trip itself and getting there and back.

            Jetlag is one of the many pieces of almost all the trips we operate and it can be one of the most difficult to deal with, especially as it book ends the trip and it can be very difficult to prepare for.   There are a lot of jetlag cures out there, some that are more effective than others, but all promise to aid in the adjustment of your natural circadian rhythm to wherever you find yourself in the world.  Many are pills (No-Jet-Lag, Melatonin, Tryptophan, Provigil etc…), while other are suggestions, like “just stay up to local bed time” – which is much easier than done!

I haven’t found any miracle curealls to really work as promised but, I do know that when you find yourself preparing to take a long flight, where you’ll be adjusting to some serious jetlag (like Nepal, a 20 hour trip and 10 hours ahead of EST), there are some things you can do before, during and after that will make your trip easier to adjust to and from.

Prior to your journey, think about your natural rhythm and schedule.  What tells your body it’s morning and night? Are there things that just make your morning better (i.e. coffee, granola, yoga) that you can bring along with you to make your morning schedule familiar while traveling?  Aside from this awareness, building some flexibility is also a great preparatory tool.  By adjusting your bedtime and wakeup by an hour a day for a few days prior to your trip, you can really build yourself in a buffer before you even leave home. 

Another pre-trip tip is to schedule your trip in a way that reflects what you’re hoping to do, for example if you are planning a to go for a few weeks or longer, you do not have to be so worried about your flights, as you’ll have some time to get over the jetlag in country.  On the other hand, if you’re planning on going somewhere for a week or 10 days, you have to be aware of the flight path you’re choosing.  You don’t want to schedule yourself on a trip where there are lots of stopovers, layovers and oddly timed breaks in your trip over.  You want to make sure you’re able to schedule the flights that will enable you, while en-route to get in sync with your new local time.

While traveling there are some great tools you can use to keep your body in good shape to battle jetlag as well. First, before you go and while you’re en-route be sure to be hydrated.  Lots of water is key, and while it does mean you’ll be in search of the bathroom a bit more often, that is a small price to pay for the many benefits of keeping yourself well hydrated.  While on the plane, do try to stay away from alcohol and caffeine, as they both dehydrate you, on top of which, planes are some the driest settings our bodies will ever face (dryer than deserts!).  Also while traveling, try to keep salt and sugars to a minimum, salt will cause bloating (uncomfortable and unhealthy) while sugars will cause your blood sugar to spike and drop – not helpful in trying to rest or preparing for such a large adjustment. 

Finally, once in country and beginning the fun part of the adventure, there are a few easy steps to help reduce the impact of jetlag as well.  First, try to keep your morning schedule as similar to home as possible, if you wake up and do yoga then eat – do that while you’re away.  Second, try to keep your self active, this helps on two levels, it keeps you busy but also it hopefully keeps you out in the sunlight all day – which is a huge help in keeping your body energized and going.  On almost all of our itineraries, we are sure to schedule the first few days in a way where people are out and about until mid to late afternoon, where they’ll head back to their hotel, shower, eat dinner and head to bed – exhausted enough to sleep until morning.  And a final tip, but one of my very favorites: try taking your multivitamins at lunch – they have a tendency to give you a nutritional burst, which help you power through any afternoon exhaustion.

All in all, jetlag is a really tough side effect of travel, but it by no means has to cast a dark shadow on an adventure. By preparing for it, making a few good choices and being proactive about it, you can nip jetlag in the bud and just keep on jetting.


~Lisa Conlon
Above the Clouds

Druk Air Flight landing in Paro Valley, Bhutan
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Druk Air Flight landing in Paro Valley, Bhutan

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