It’s noon in Munich but your body still thinks it’s 3 A.M.in San Francisco.
After a 12-hour flight, your head feels like a topand your tongue like a chalkboard eraser. You’re suffering fromsevere jet lag. What is jet lag? Simply, it’s the disruption of thebody’s normal rhythms–heart rate, blood pressure, andrespiration–brought on by rapid travel through several time zones. Jetlag is exacerbated by lack of sleep, fatigue, and muscle stiffness dueto sitting for hours. Researchers disagree on jet lag’s cause and treatment, andmedical studies are continuing. Sleep-disorder researchers at StanfordUniversity contend sleep is the most critical factor.
They’retesting a short-acting sleeping pill to help travelers prevent the worstsymptoms by getting enough sleep while flying. Argonne National Laboratory has developed a program to follow infighting jet lag. Designed to readjust the body’s inner clock withtime cues from the environment, it involves a planned rescheduling ofmeals and sleep. They report excellent results. For a free,wallet-size care that condenses the plan, send a stamped, self-addressedenvelope to Anti-Jet-Lag-Diet, OPA, Argonne National Laboratory, 9700 S.Cass Ave., Argonne, Ill.
60439. You can’t completely avoid tiredness and jet lag when youtravel long distances by air, but you can minimize their effects. Hereare some steps you can take. Before you fly.
Travel rested. Dress comfortably. High heels,tight clothes, and neckties can make long hours in a plane unbearable.Eliminate the last-minute rush to the airport; many airlines haveadvance seating for international flights. Seats directly behind abulkhead let you prop up your feet. Aisle seats allow you to get in andout easily, but may be harder to sleep in. If you have layovers, try toplan them overnight so you can sleep in a bed. In the air.
Make yourself comfortable. Stretch out, take off yourshoes; bring along a pair of slippers or thick socks to wear. Ear plugsand an eye mask can help you fall asleep. Don’t be shy aboutasking for a pillow or blanket. Dry, pressurized air will cause you to dehydrate, so drink plentyof liquids.
However, alcohol not only accelerates dehydration, but highaltitude intensifies its other physiological effects. Bring along somemoisturizing lotion for face and hands to prevent chapping. Try not to overeat. Vegetarian, Kosher, and other special mealscan be ordered ahead of time; call your airline for specificinstructions.
Walk around and stretch when you can. This will increasecirculation and help prevent swelling in feet and ankles. You can alsodo a number of simple stretches in your seat to keep from getting stiff. Western, Eastern, and World Airways have new in-flight audioexercise programs.
Ask your flight attendant for more details. For more information. The Capitol Hill Hospital Sports Medicine Program and the Washington Healthcare Corporation have produced a30-minute audio tape designed to help passengers fight jet lag. Theprogram combines 15 minutes of isometric exercises you can do in yourseat with 15 minutes of relaxation exercises. For a cassette version ofthe program, send $6.
95 to Washington Healthcare Corp., 100 Irving St.N.W., E.
Building, Room 8102, Washington, D.C. 20010.