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Dealing with Jet Lag

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What's the best way to manage jet lag is a commonly asked question. Adrupt changes in time zones can upset our natural rhythm, to which many of our bodily processes are timed. Jet lag can make you tired, sleepy, irritable and less able to concentrate. Appetite and bowel habits may be affected and insomnia, headaches, dizziness, clumsiness and a general feeling of not being well are also symptoms. There is no cure for jet lag but there are ways to minimise the effects. How?

Well for starters, try to get enough sleep in the lead up to your departure, since an existing sleep deficit will only make things worse. Exercising beforehand also has an impact. I generally walk for several hours each day anyway, and whenever I fly, I always ensure that I've had a big walk so my body feels tired. While waiting to board, I always do a few exercises also. Move while you can, because at least in coach where I'm always to be found, that little seat doesn't allow for much movement!

Now theory has it that travelling west is kinder and I agree. It is easier to stay up a little more, allowing your body to then adjust to the new bedtime. If your trip involves travelling across more than five time zones, consider a stopover. For my Tour Guide work doing airport meet and greets, I see clients arriving from London who have flown for more than 24 hours to reach Sydney, Australia. They are exhausted. I also see clients arriving from Dallas, Atlanta, New York etc who have travelled for almost as long. My very strong recommendation is take a day or two in the arrival city before joining your cruise.

While you are in the air, a few tips will help you greatly. Minimise your intake of caffeine and yes it's hard, but limit the wine, beer, spirits and champagne. Get up frequently for a stretch and walk. This annoys the flight attendants enormously but it really is good for you, and keep your intake of water up. Airlines limit the amount of water they hand out these days to keep fuel costs down, so I always carry an empty water bottle and once airborne, I walk to the back of the plane to the galley and ask for some bottled water to fill up with. As soon as you can after take off, change your watch to the new time. Really important this one. Get yourself in sync with your new time for meals and sleep.

Now a confession. 9 hours is my limit in the air. I just can't stand being confined for so long in such a teeny weeny seat. Even so, I always find it hard to adjust. I find it preferable when flying east to west to stay awake for the flight and try to catch a flight that leaves by noon. On arrival it's late Sydney time, but no later than if I'd gone to a late night show. I can deal with this. Coming home, I fly during the night. I've tried melatonin but the tablets don't seem to work for me. Some believe it aids with getting your sleep back to a normal pattern.

If it's daytime when you arrive, get exposure to the sun, since this stimulus will help to reset your body clock. Although you might feel like going straight to bed, try to stay awake or limit your sleep to a short one only. I recently picked up 4 couples from London. They stayed at the Shangri-La Hotel in Sydney and all had been on the same flight. Three couples did it right. On arrival, they showered, went for a walk and then became hungry. This we called lunch, since in Sydney it was lunchtime. I recommended a healthy salad sandwich, which they enjoyed. When I met with them the next day, the three couples were all fine. The forth couple had gone straight to bed and had slept thru the entire day waking up at 8 pm on the first day. I met them again one week later. They were the only couple who had battled hard with adjusting and had not enjoyed their holiday because of it.

Now a word of caution. Ok, I admit, I did have a brief time when I had a fear of flying after a horrific flight. I resorted to medication. I no longer take it. Avoid it and all other sleeping tablets except herbal tablets, because you will soon become dependant on them as a sleep aid, and because they affect your ability to function. Last week I met a couple who had flown from Ohio to reach their cruise. 3 flights and many hours later. She had taken sleeping tablets because she wanted to get as much rest as possible before she joined the cruise. Everytime she woke up she said, she would just pop a few more she said. Lucky she had a partner, because she was doing things that were just sloppy. Like withdrawing cash and dropping some of it. Then missing a step as she got on the coach.

There are not too many downsides to cruising that I can think of, but jet lag is one. Any tips - share them with us! Talk more next week or send me your comments in the meantime.

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