I flew to New Zealand a few years ago for a work trip of just five days and, boy, did it mess with my body. I landed in Auckland exhausted, nauseous and horribly off-kilter — a feeling not dissimilar to a massive hangover — and when I arrived back home I felt ten times worse.
Jet lag is a physiological condition that results from throwing our internal clock, or circadian rhythm, out of whack by travelling rapidly across time zones. The general rule of recovery is to allow one day for every time zone crossed, but there are simple ways you can adjust more smoothly to your new time zone.
First, get a good night’s sleep before your flight. Adjust your watch to your new time zone as soon as you get on the plane and keep hydrated, avoiding caffeine and alcohol, for the duration of the flight.
When you land, stick to the new time zone, even if you feel grim and crave a nap. If it’s daytime, soak up the sunlight — following signals from lightness and darkness is key to resetting your internal body clock. A brisk walk to explore your destination will stretch stiff muscles and bring plenty of fresh oxygen into your lungs for an energy boost.
Adjust to meal times, but keep it healthy. Flying long haul can wreak havoc on your digestive system, from airport stress to stodgy airline meals and the effects of sitting for so long in a pressurised cabin, so be kind to your body. And keep knocking back the water — however tempting it may seem, booze won’t help you sleep properly tonight!
As you approach bedtime, make your room dark and cosy. You can encourage sleep by taking a warm, relaxing bath. The drop in temperature when you get out should make you feel drowsy.
You can also follow the yoga sequence above, which can be done anywhere, without a mat or any Lycra to be seen. It is extremely effective in the evening, but I’ve been known to check in and chuck my legs up the wall before I’ve even unpacked.
1. Hips, legs and, heck, your entire body will feel all scrunched up after being cooped up on a plane for hours on end, so treat yourself to a wide-angle seated forward bend.
Sit on the floor and move your feet apart as far as it feels comfortable. Pull the flesh out from either side of your haunches so you feel your sitting bones on the ground. Lengthen the spine and slowly start to walk your hands forward, all the time lifting your chest. You might not move far — and that’s okay — just enjoy the sensation in the hips, legs and back as your body starts to unfurl. Stay here for as long as you like and breathe steadily.
2. For a gentle detox to ease a sluggish digestive system, try a laying twist. It will also relieve tension in the shoulders and chest and soothe frazzled nerves.
Lie on your back and draw your knees into the chest. Place your arms out to the side at shoulder height, palms facing up, and slowly drop your knees over to the right. Place a cushion under your knees if they don’t reach the ground so you can completely surrender here. Turn your head to the left and close the eyes. Stay for several breaths and repeat on the other side.
3. Legs up the wall pose will relieve puffy legs and feet after a long flight. It will also ease the lower back, stretch out the hamstrings and relax your nervous system.
Sit on a cushion with your one hip and shoulder touching a wall. Scoot yourself round so your legs reach upwards — you want your bottom close to the wall, which might involve a bit of shimmying! Pop a cushion under your head if you would like additional support.
Close your eyes and bring your attention to your breath. Imagine your lungs are big balloons and feel your belly rise and fall as you breathe.
Here’s to a good night’s sleep… and a very happy holiday!
Published in the Irish Daily Mail, Tuesday April 17, 2018