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 flyers.
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.
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Makansutra According 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 one.