How to Beat Jet Lag When Going East or West

I have read countless blogs and academic articles on jet lag and there is a wide range of information out there on how to tackle the dreaded jet lag.

So, why is it that when people travel they comment on still feeling terrible despite following generalist advice.

The clue here is in the term “generalist”.

The advice that is often dished out of forums and from multiple blog posts circulating the internet is that is does not take into account direction of travel or the amount of time zones you are travelling across.

It’s all very well regurgitating pieces of advice like “wear blue light glasses” or “ground against the plane”, but these snippets of advice are not tailored to the specific needs of each individual person.

We need to apply context and also drill down into each claim dependant on your destination and time of travel, for example.

What is Jet Jag?

In a nutshell,  jet lag is a temporary circadian issue.

When one travels, usually by air, across multiple time zones our master circadian clock becomes out of sync with the time in the destination. This is because the light and dark cycles differ at the destination are not the same as from the place we left.

Downstream, the master circadian clock is in sync with peripheral oscillators which will also become desynchronised meaning that sleeping, hormones.

Eating and organ function will suffer, this is because they rely on environmental cues which have obviously changed in the destination location.

It is worth pointing out that even if one can correct their sleep quickly in the destinations time zone the organs and skeletal muscle clocks will take more time to catch up.

Jet lag is only an issue when travelling from East to West or from West to East. Jet lag does not occur when travelling from North to South or when there is no time zone changes.

Travelling East – The King of Jet Lag!

For those of us who travel frequently we would have found that travelling just a few hours to the East packs a stronger jet lag punch than crossing several time zones to the West.

Our circadian clocks should surely be hit harder crossing more time zones, so why is direction of travel so influential is intensifying symptoms of jet lag?

Simply put, our master clock is easier to delay than it is to advance.

Travelling Eastwards advances our body clocks, whereas travelling Westwards delays them.

Most mammals including us human beings run a 24-hour circadian clock which ties in with the spin of the earth around the sun. Adding time to this clock cycle is what happens when you travel East, but when you travel West you take time off this clock.

So, you can begin to see that adding time to a 24-hour cycle is going to wreak more havoc on your body than shortening it.

Our body clocks have a tendency to run slightly longer than 24 hours so when we travel West and gain a few hours the body has a better time adjusting is another way to put it.

I could go on in more detail, but I do not want to do what most articles do and overwhelm the reader.

So, let’s talk about what you can do travelling to the East first as this seems to be the greatest issue for jet lag.

The Ultimate Jet Lag Formula for Eastward Travel

In 2007 an important academic paper was released by Waterhouse et al. which sought to analyse Eastward travel and issue advice based on the time zones travelled through.

This was relating to when a person shouldn’t get or should get light exposure at the their destination to help reset their body clock.

The table below shows the times needed to manage light exposure when travelling eastwards to avoid jet lag. 

Time zones

Local time to avoid light at destination

Local time to seek light at destination

East 6h

0300–0900

1100–1700

East 7h

0400–1000

1200–1800

East 8h

0500–1100

1300–1900

East 9h

0600–1200

1400–2000

 

The above is the first tool in your tool box for resetting your body clock once you land, make sure the light is natural from the sun where possible.

As you can see it’s not as simple as just watching the sunrise and sunset.

However, once your sleep patterns are back in check you can revert back to typical quantum biological theory of watching the sunrise and sunset and blocking all blue and green light up to 550nm after dark with blue light glasses.

When travelling East one of the best hacks for getting over jet lag quickly is to arrive at your destination in the evening, ideally just before bed.

You will most likely be exhausted from the flight given factors like exposing your body to poor air quality, lack of quality sleep, cosmic radiation and nutrient poor food so you can head straight to bed.

When you take off travelling East you should set your watch to the destination time zone and work on managing your light environment accordingly.

For example, when it's daytime in your destination’s time zone make sure you are wearing your SummerGlo yellow daytime lenses from BLUblox and when its post sunset in your destination wear your BLUblox Sleep+ red lens blue light blocking glasses.

When it is time to sleep in the destination then take off your blue light glasses and pop on a BLUblox blackout sleep mask and try and get as much sleep as possible.

Before your flight it is also wise to move your bedtime about a week before you travel East by 30 minutes earlier each night. This can be done, again, through light management. Morning sunrises coupled with getting your red lens blue light blocking glasses on 30 minutes earlier each night so you start producing melatonin earlier.

Make sure your skin is also covered up earlier as well each night before you travel as melanopsin receptors in the skin will also sense light and mess up your well-oiled plans for combatting jet lag!

Man standing in front of a sunrise

A summary of how to beat jet lag when travelling West to East can be summarised as follows:

    • When booking your flight make sure you book one that lands at around bedtime in the destination country/state
    • Bright light exposure in the mornings, sunrise is best for this
    • Earlier bedtime by 30 minutes each night about a week before you travel (wear your blue light blocking glasses 30 minutes earlier each night too to help with this transition)
    • When on the flight set your watch to the destination time zone and manage your light environment using your red and yellow lens BLUblox blue light glasses or if you do not have yellow lenses the BLUblox computer glasses would also help.
    • Sleep according to the destinations bedtime – use a silk sleep mask in flight
    • When you land go straight to bed
    • Use Waterhouse’s chart for light exposure for the first day at your destination then revert to morning sunrises to entrain your master clock

The Ultimate Jet Lag Formula for Westward Travel

As we have discussed Westward travel doesn’t have a huge impact on our circadian clocks, but some of us will still feel tired or suffer from a few days of fatigue.

There are some hacks to overcome this and they differ from Eastward travel in some places but are the same in others.

The first hack is to make sure you expose yourself to evening light, ideally from the sunset but you may also want to start putting your blue blockers on later as well in the evening and exposing yourself to artificial blue and green light a little at the start of the evening to. About 3 days before you travel.

Another hack is a few days before you travel to do some light exercise in the evenings, this will allow for hormonal responses akin to the ideal morning circadian rhythm which will prepare your clocks for your destinations time zone.

Again, set your watch as soon as you arrive on the flight to the destination time zone and use your BLUblox SummerGlo during the daytime and your Sleep+ blue light lenses at the destinations night time. This can be hard to achieve but well worth it for jet lag management.

Man wearing blublox red lens blue light glasses

A summary of how to beat jet lag when travelling from East to West can be summarised as follows:

    • Focus on evening light exposure before you travel, about 3 days before
    • Do light exercise in the evenings before you travel, about 3 days before
    • When on the flight set your watch to the destination time zone and manage your light environment using your red and yellow lens BLUblox blue light glasses or if you do not have yellow lenses the BLUblox computer glasses would also help.

It’s Not Just About Jet Lag

As mitochondriacs, biohackers and wellness warriors we know that air travel doesn’t just cause jet lag. It also causes inflammation and mitochondrial damage.

Therefore, whether you are travelling West or East you should use the following additional ten hacks to mitigate the vast amount of damage caused to your body during the flight.

These include:

    • Avoid alcohol, drink only water to avid dehydration. When you land seek out a good quality spring water – ideally from glacial origin, has passed through limestone and has come from a high altitude. This way you will be drinking a low deuterium based water source which will replenish your cells.
    • Wear an air filtration system over your face. You can buy air filter masks these days that do not look like a 1918 gas mask.
    • Ground your bare foot to the metal of the plane. The seat in front is a good bet. For safety reasons during thunderstorms all planes are actually grounded so by doing this you are reducing the negative impact from not being grounded. Grounding also increases blood flow meaning less incidences of deep vein thrombosis.
    • Avoid the processed foods on board. If you can fast do so, if you cannot buy some healthier more natural food once you pass through the check in desks at the airport.
    • Ground to the earth barefoot as soon as you land, this will reduce the damage caused by all the positive charge build up during the flight.
    • Wear earplugs to reduce noise induced hearing damage
    • Take a cold shower, swim or bath when you land to reduce inflammation
    • Eat seafood before you leave and when you arrive at your destination. The high levels of radiation, nnEMF and EMF on a flight these days will destroy a lot of your DHA stores.
    • Get up and walk as much as you can during the flight
    • Get a massage when you arrive to untighten the build-up of muscle knots from the flight. This will not only rid the body of toxins but also help you have a better and more comfortable sleep.

 

Man swimming in a pool during the day

References

  1. https://www.thelancet.com/journals/lancet/article/PIIS0140-6736(07)60529-7/fulltext
  2. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/17572456/
  3. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/19083655/
  4. https://bjsm.bmj.com/content/36/1/54
  5. http://www.flinders.edu.au/sabs/psychology/research/labs/sleep/bas.cfm
  6. https://www.washingtonpost.com/national/health-science/jet-lag-is-tougher-when-traveling-east-but-precautions-can-ease-its-effects/2012/12/24/e75305f8-3a67-11e2-b01f-5f55b193f58f_story.html?noredirect=on&utm_term=.049652399c3a
  7. https://jackkruse.com/jet-lag-rx-human-flight-biohacking/

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