19, 2000 VOL. 158 NO. 24
How To Get Time On Your Side
By SHEELA SARVANANDA
Your mouth feels dry, your eyes are bloodshot, you're drowsy at 4 in the
afternoon, your stomach feels like hell-and you're 3,000 km from home.
No doubt about it: you're jetlagged. The scourge of business travelers,
jetlag occurs when you confuse the body's internal clock, which regulates
everything from basic functions like digestion and sleep to hormone levels
and body temperature. Taking its cue from the light-dark cycle as day
passes into night, the timer in your brain adjusts the clocks of your
other organs. But when you hop across time zones, you disrupt these clocks-and
they get back into sync at varying speeds. A day after you return on a
transpacific flight, for example, your kidneys may still be in San Francisco
and your liver somewhere over Maui. And when your organs are dancing to
different drummers, your body suffers. Although jetlag hits some people
harder than others, many long-haul travelers suffer afterward from dehydration,
exhaustion and indigestion.
New evidence suggests that frequent time-zone hopping can lead to several
less-predictable problems as well. Researchers at Britain's Durham University
have found that prolonged jetlag can result in slowed reactions and possibly
memory loss. Flight attendants tested on picture sequences were relatively
slow to respond and made more errors than people who weren't frequent
to Diana Fairechild, author of the 1999 flyer's guide Jet Smarter (Flyana
Rhyme), jetlag is a condition that needs to be addressed rather than dismissed
as something to get accustomed to. Says Fairechild, a former flight attendant
who has flown more than 16 million km:"You get used to jetlag the same
way an alcoholic gets used to functioning when he's not feeling 100%."
She suggests that passengers can help themselves by drinking plenty of
water on board and skipping in-flight meals and alcohol. Other flyers
swear by a pre-flight massage and inflight exercise.
Once you deplane-if you're staying put for more than a few days-try to
acclimate yourself to the time zone. If it's daylight out, you can help
reset your body clock with a walk in the natural light. If it's night,
relax with a long bath and a light meal. If you can't fall asleep right
away, try low lighting and aromatherapy.
Some hotels cater to the needs of their jetlagged guests. Selected Hilton
hotels have "Sleep Tight" rooms, where visitors are provided with light
boxes that shine a soft beam on them while they work, helping to shift
their internal clocks to the daylight pattern. At the Ritz-Carlton Hong
Kong, the "Jetlag Recovery Meal" of freshly prepared macrobiotic foods
comes with an anti-jetlag kit comprising a scent burner, sleep-inducing
oils, an eye mask and a CD meant to lull you to sleep with sounds of the
rainforest. Low-dose sleeping pills may also do the trick, as well as
sleeping aids like melatonin, a hormone the body produces naturally that
helps regulate normal sleep-wake cycles. The potential side-effects of
synthetic melatonin are as yet unclear, however, as its development for
drug use is still in a preliminary stage.
Homeopathic treatments like anti-jetlag teas and tonics work for some,
but that may be a placebo effect. Then there are gadgets like the anti-jetlag
watch (available at www.jetlag.com), which provides travelers with a psychological
boost as it moves progressively toward the time at the final destination.
Whatever your approach, there isn't a magic fix that works for everyone.
Finding out what's best for you is a process of trial and error. With
luck, some of these tips, or perhaps all of them combined, may help you
feel like it is the end of the day rather than the beginning of a long
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