Jet Lag Drag

Jet Lag Drag

You're tired, you're cranky and, to top it all off, you have insomnia.
Welcome to the world of jet lag drag.

Jet lag is the body's way of letting you know it doesn't appreciate zipping through multiple time zones – particularly when it's forced to do so in a cramped seat with no legroom. Breathing air of dubious quality and having your stomach roll with each pocket of turbulence doesn't help either.

One way to beat jet lag is to avoid flying. A more practical solution, however, is to let your chiropractor help you weather the ups and downs of air travel with sound advice and common-sense remedies. Chiropractors can also teach you how to sidestep many of jet lag's causes, in addition to coping with those that you can't avoid.

Spine Attack
If you're a frequent flyer, you know that airplane travel is a spine's worst nightmare. The human spine was not meant to be twisted into a pretzel, crammed into a too-small seating area and rendered immobile for hours on end.

Quite often, flying results in areas of the spine becoming misaligned or restricted. This condition, known as a vertebral subluxation, is associated with an increased risk of headache, back pain and nerve-related disorders. Ongoing research also suggests that vertebral subluxations affect the immune system. Using a series of gentle movements, known as chiropractic adjustments, corrects vertebral subluxations and prevents their recurrence.

Dr. Warren Sipser may also suggest a variety of exercises that may be performed in your seat during the flight, to minimise damage to your spine.

So, before you call your ticket agent to schedule your next flight, schedule an appointment for a chiropractic checkup.

A Drag, by Any Other Name, Is Still a Drag
In scientific circles, it is termed circadian dischronism. Most people, however, know it by its common handle: jet lag.

Jet lag is characterised by fatigue, headache, weakness, irritability, memory difficulties, loss of concentration and gastrointestinal disturbances.

But what causes this phenomenon? Accordinging to scientisits, the collection of maladies known as jet lag is due to 'transient dissociation between the environment (local time in the new time zone) and internal (body time due to the internal body clock) times. The body clock is slow to adjust to a change in habits". (The Lancet 1997; 350:1611.)

'Eastward travel is associated with worse disturbances than westward, perhaps because getting to sleep at bedtime at the destination is more difficult than premature weakening. Several days may be needed for full recovery." (The Lancet 1997; 352:626.)

Why does eastward travel up the risk of jet lag?
According to an article in the Los Angeles Business Journal, 'Our bodies are telling us they would really rather wake up an hour later – one time zone to the West – every day. Flying westward, then, we can take advantage of this tendency to automatically offset the lag by the space of about one time zone. Flying east, on the other hand, your system inevitably adds that daily out-of-synch hour to the damage done."

Brain Damage
A late-breaking study suggests that chronic jet lag may actually shrink your brain.

'Kwangwook Cho, of the University of Bristol Medical School in England, found that flight attendants with chronic jet lag have higher stress-hormone concentrations in their saliva and smaller temporal lobes than more rested attendants do. The temporal lobes are critical brain areas for processing short-term memory.

'Cho took saliva samples and brain scans of healthy women in their twenties who had been employed by international airlines for five years. Their schedules had included flights crossing at least seven time zones, interspersed with short or long periods of flying within a single time zone."

'Half the women had fewer than five days between multizone flights and half had at least two-week sessions of the shorter flights. The first group had higher saliva concentrations of the stress hormone cortisol, smaller temporal lobes and more difficulty in tests of short-term memory. Many studies have shown that high cortisol concentrations damage brain cells. If this is the case in jet lag, the shrinkage is permanent, says Cho." (Science News 2001;159:392.)

Other studies link jet lag with elevated levels of the stress hormone cortisol. For instance, salivary cortisol concentrations were significantly higher among airline flight attendants who had more than eight hours of jet lag per week, compared to that of airport check-in staff. (The Lancet 2000;355:1078).

Bolstered cortisol levels may trigger various mental and physical conditions, such as heart disease, diabetes and clinical anxiety.

Melatonin? Maybe
In the search for the ultimate jet lag remedy, countless travelers have turned to the hormone melatonin. Both supporters and detractors, however, have hotly debated its benefits.

Melatonin is the chief hormone secreted by the pineal gland of the brain. Although many frequent-flyers and flight attendants swear by this remedy, research has yet to support its effectiveness.

For example, in a Columbia University study, 257 Norwegian physicians who were visiting New York for five days were randomly assigned to one of four regiments: 1) 0.5 milligrams of melatonin at bedtime, 2) 0.5 milligrams of melatonin on a shifting schedule, 3) 5 milligrams of melatonin at bedtime or 4) a placebo (dummy pill).

'On their first day home, two-thirds of the physicians showed a marked increase in jet-lag symptoms with gradual improvement over the next five days. But none of the melatonin treatments eased symptoms better than a placebo." (Environmental Nutrition 1999;22:7).

As with all supplementations, talk with your health-care provider before adding melatonin or any other substance to your wellness regime.

Beat Jet Lag
Beat jet lag with the following tips:
Plan to arrive at your location several days early, if possible, to allow yourself to full recover before business or sporting events.
Drink plenty of water on board. Avoid alcohol (a diuretic) and coffee (a diuretic and source of caffeine).
Avoid napping unless it coincides with the night cycle of your destination (unless, of course you have been deprived of sleep for a long period of time during transit).
Pack earplugs, a CD player and eye mask (to block out light). Ask your chiropractor to recommend a spine-friendly inflatable pillow. If you do decide to nap, these accessories will allow you to do so in relative peace.
Wear comfortable clothing and shoes that can easily be removed.
Set your watch to the time zone of your destination to help you start making the mental transition.
Snag plenty of sunshine once you have reached your final destination, to set your circadian clock to the new time.
Snooze only when it's bedtime and not because you are tired. And adjust your eating times as well.

Tips presented by Dr. Warren Sipser of for Optimal Health University™.