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Tips for Tackling Jet Lag
by Kari Bodnarchuk

Jet lag wasn't an issue years ago when travelers covered long distances slowly, by railway, steamboat, ship and land. But now that we can cross umpteen time zones in a single 747, our bodies can't always keep up.

If you were tired before you left home, if you crossed three or more time zones or if you had a rigid schedule on either end of your flight, you are probably experiencing the fatigue, insomnia, lethargy, headaches, decreased appetite, hunger pains and strange sleeping patterns associated with the hell we call jet lag.

Here are a few tips to help ease the effects of jet lag while you're traveling.

East to west is best: For many travelers, flying west is easier-the body's internal biological clock can adjust much quicker-since they're typically gaining hours in the day rather than losing them. For example, it's a six-hour flight from Boston to San Francisco and from Boston to London. If you left Boston at noon, heading west, you'd arrive in San Francisco at 3 p.m.-a reasonable time change. But heading east, you'd arrive in London at midnight local time, which is just 6 p.m. by your Boston clock-now you have to either stay up way past London bedtime or force yourself to sleep before your body is ready.

Of course, you can't really help where you're flying, but it's nice to know why you're feeling more miserable in certain cities than in others.

Take advantage of night flights: If you're one of the lucky ones who can sleep on planes, DO! When you get on board, let the flight attendants know you don't want to be disturbed for movies or meals. Then slip off your shoes, get comfortable and sleep as long as you can. You'll feel much better when you arrive at your destination. Make sure there are no layovers or changeovers en route, so your sleep patterns aren't disturbed.

Switch to local time: As soon as you land, switch to local time immediately since this will help you adjust quicker. For instance, if you arrive in Rome at 8 a.m. feeling sleepy since it's only 2 a.m. at home, try not to take a snooze. Instead take a stroll, have a cup of java, visit the Coliseum and do anything to stay awake for the day.

Herbal tricks: Our bodies secrete a natural hormone into our bloodstreams at night to help us sleep. The drug Melatonin acts as this hormone and fools your body into believing it's evening. Melatonin is now available (though not yet FDA approved) in pill form, over-the-counter and at health food stores. Take it before boarding the plane for night flights or at bedtime when you reach your destination.

Aromatherapy to the rescue: Lavender and geranium (in oils and body creams) help some people sleep. If, on the other hand, you need something to keep you energized, try rosemary and eucalyptus oils. Shops specializing in aromatherapy products also offer a variety of blends.

Food for thought: Avoid alcohol, caffeinated drinks and big, heavy meals in flight. If you're traveling at night, eat a high-protein breakfast (bran cereal) and lunch (tuna fish) to keep your energy level up during the day, and have a high-carbohydrate meal for dinner (pasta, meat). This may help you sleep solidly the night of your flight.

Kari J. Bodnarchuk is a freelance writer in Boston who's traveled to 30 countries in the past 10 years. She's author of Rwanda: Country Torn Apart and is currently writing Tales from A~broad, about her 18-month solo backpacking trip through Asia and Oceania.

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• Find Your Travel Personality
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Related Books
• Overcoming Jet Lag, Charles F. Ehret, Lynne Waller Scanlon
• 62 Natural Ways to Beat Jet Lag, Charles B. Inlander, Cynthia K. Moran
• 202 Tips Even the Best Business Travelers May Not Know , Christopher J. McGinnis

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