Saturday, July 25, 2009

Jet Lag Remedy

One of the banes of international travel is the debilitating effect of "jet lag." The sluggish disorientation that disrupts the first few days after a long flight through several time zones can make zombies of even the most experienced fliers. There are many suggested remedies for reducing the effects of jet lag, none of which ever had even the slightest effect on me: I found myself swooning into a deep slumber similar to a drunken stupor in the middle of the afternoon, then spending early morning hours wide awake without a single person to interact with (but I did discover some of the most inane TV shows imaginable).

But no more. About a year and a half ago, on a flight from Iowa to Asia, I ran across an article in the on board magazine that summarized recent research into jet lag. According to scientists who conducted the research, it is not change in sleep patterns--usually suggested by "experts" that one take herbal supplements along with increased adjustments to bedtime before the trip--that upsets our internal clock. Instead, it has to do with eating patterns. The researchers suggested that before traveling, if one were to fast for 18 hours before departing, the effects of jet lag would be minimized. I figured I had little to lose, since normally I was so incapacitated by jet lag that I was disoriented for at least two days after my arrival. Fortunately, the first time I tried it, my flight was at noon, so it was rather easy to fast for 18 hours, having a hearty meal the evening before.

The result was nothing less that miraculous (in my view). I have since flown between the U.S. and Thailand six times, and six times I fasted before leaving, regardless of which way I was traveling. Each time I was able to transition into the destination time zone with no ill effects of jet lag. No kidding, none. I arrived fully able to function immediately without awakening at 2 AM wondering where the hell I was. I am living proof that this system works. I have been slightly bemused by friends who decide that they cannot possibly go without solid food for 18 hours and are willing to wrestle with jet lag for two days (each way).

If you plan to travel across time zones, or know someone who is, my suggestion is to try the fasting method. If it works for you the way it did for me, you will be pleased with the days you save not stumbling around in a fog.

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