When we think about air travel, we think about the overwhelming joy of transcending borders, the calm of grabbing a coffee during the early hours in an airport and watching the flights take off from the cushioned seats of a lobby. But then, there’s also the overwhelming dread of jet lag, especially if you are planning to take a long-haul flight. For some, the dread turns into reality, bringing along symptoms like daytime fatigue, headache and difficulty sleeping (insomnia).
What is jet lag?
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Jet lag is a physiological condition that can be defined by a feeling of tiredness and confusion after making a long trip across several time zones. This is caused due to disruption in our body clock or cardiac rhythm, as it is synced with our home time zone and when we traverse across countries, there’s an adjustment period during which people often experience some uncomfortable symptoms.
While there is no cure-all medication for jet lag, the University of Sydney’s Charles Perkins Centre and Australian airline Qantas have come together to research factors like in-flight menus, light exposure, and exercise to study how passengers are responding to changes made during their journey. One of the more interesting conclusions they found is that meals featuring specific ingredients like chilli and chocolate led to reduced jet lag and increased quality of sleep among long-haul passengers.
Named Project Sunrise, the airlines created a special menu that “encouraged wake and sleep by using specific menu items including fish and chicken paired with fast-acting carbohydrates, as well as comfort foods like soups and milk-based desserts,” according to a statement published by Qantas.
“There are certain foods that help in alleviating jet lag due to chemical cues certain foods give to the body. High-protein meals stimulate your ‘catecholamine’ pathway which is normally activated early in the morning; it’s what wakes you before your alarm clock rings and it serves to stimulate the body’s active phase. High-carbohydrate meals stimulate your ‘indoleamine’ pathway, which normally occurs in the evening of your circadian cycle when you are winding down to a night of sleep,” says nutritionist and dietitian Garima Goyal.
What are some other foods that help with sleeping better on flights and fighting jet lag?
1. Bananas: This fruit is one of the best for fighting jet lag as an essential amino acid tryptophan it reduces the time you take to sleep. Additionally, magnesium in bananas helps to relax the muscles and aids in getting good sleep.
2. Ginger: This condiment works great to fight nausea during jet lag and you can have it by making ginger tea.
3. Kiwi: Having this fruit raw or in juice form is the best for jet lag as it has serotonin which transforms into melatonin, a hormone that aids in inducing sleep.
4. Lemon: To reduce the jet lag, either add a few drops of lemon juice to hot water and drink it or just have a piece of lemon as it is.