Get on a diet to fight jet lag

Get on a diet to fight jet lag

Get on a diet to fight jet lag

 I got lucky at the box office of the theatre in the West End, scoring a single front-row centre seat for that night’s performance of Eugene O’Neill’s ‘Long Day’s Journey Into Night’, starring Jessica Lange. But when I settled into my seat at the theatre, it occurred to me that this was a long play. Before the curtain went up, I asked a favour of a woman in the next seat.“If I happen to accidentally doze off, would you mind giving me a nudge?” I asked her.“Certainly,” she said. Sure enough, well into the second act, I lost a mighty struggle and nodded off. Evidently, the word “nudge” did not fully translate, because the woman gave me a shot in the ribs that startled me awake as if someone had fired a gun.“Wah?” I blurted out — and opened my eyes to see Lange, stage front, less than 10 feet away, staring at me with alarm as she delivered a poignant line. Mortified, I burrowed into my seat. So this is a long-delayed apology. I am terribly sorry, Lange. Jet lag made me do it.

Jet lag is back on the agenda for business travellers, especially as long-haul international traffic picks up again. In February 2010, according to the International Air Transport Association, international passenger traffic was 13.5 percent higher than in February 2009 on the routes that are typically the longest, the Asian-Pacific markets.
There is endless advice online about jet lag. Drugs are frequently mentioned, and a recent favourite is Nuvigil, used to treat excessive sleepiness. But the approach I hear most often from long-haul travellers involves diet and preparation.

“Why would you take a pill that your body then has to shake off?” said Lynne Waller Scanlon, the author, with Charles F Ehret, of ‘Overcoming Jet Lag’, which was a best seller in the mid-1980s but went out of print until she revised and republished it last year under a snappier title, ‘The Cure for Jet Lag’.

The book is based on research by Ehret, who died in 2007. He studied the relationship between living organisms and time cycles and said, “Cells have clocks.” The book, available at, lays out a treatment system for jet lag based on pretrip diet and conditioning to reset the body’s internal clock. The book suggests resetting the body clock so that it will be in sync with the time at the destination. One to three days before a trip, the authors suggest low-calorie meals. In flight, avoid or strictly limit alcohol, and use coffee or tea to persuade the body clock that it’s daytime. If it’s morning after flying all night, resist sleep and “flood your eyes with daylight”, they suggest.

While all long-haul travel can cause normal fatigue, travel across time zones causes the body to react with the most pronounced effects of jet lag, including disorientation and a general sense of malaise.

“Flying from, say, New York to Buenos Aires, you should not experience jet lag,” said Patrick Smith, a pilot who flies international routes for a major airline. “But that’s not to say you won’t feel fatigued” after any long-haul flight, said Smith, who also writes a column called ‘Ask the Pilot’ for Salon.

Jet lag is “a function of our internal clocks, and there is no way to change that fact”, said Lynne Lamberg, the author, with Michael Smolensky, of ‘The Body Clock Guide to Better Health’. In the last few years, global airlines have put more emphasis on accommodating the need for in-flight sleep — at least in the business and first-class cabins, where international airlines earn most of their revenue. But at the same time, international airlines also promote extensive in-flight entertainment selections, as well as high-end menus, including quality wine lists, in premium classes. Indulging in these would seem to work against dietary regimens to combat jet lag. But Scanlon says redemption is nevertheless attainable.“What do you do if you can’t implement this programme ahead of the trip, or if you’ve blown it and had a complete debauch on the plane?” she said. “Well, when you get off that plane, you get on the programme right away. It may not be perfect, but you will feel much, much better.”
Joe Sharkey