Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Lagging, and catching up

Typically, we humans sort of float around after a brain injury until something pierces the denial. For me it was jet lag.

Even 2 years after the accident I had persistent jet lag from short trips (even a couple of time zones), from early morning meetings, from spring forward and fall back. Any major change in routine would throw me for a loop.

For TBI survivors, this simple thing can ruin your life. After one trip to Dallas it took a full month to get back to normal sleep cycles. Finally I went to see Dr. H. and fell asleep in the exam room waiting for him! Like most busy professionals, I couldn't afford the downtime. It was one of the deal breakers with my job.

With some experimentation I've come up with a system for dealing with time changes and jet lag. Some of the tricks are standard; others are mine. There's a new product recommendation, too. The system is for anyone; feel free to use and forward to friends who travel.

  • Avoid caffeine before getting on an airplane. For longer trips you want to be able to sleep on the plane. (Also, you don't want to freak out too badly in case of mechanical issues.)
  • Avoid alcohol before, during and after the outbound flight. It messes with sleep cycles. On inbound flights a small amount of wine or beer is OK to assist with falling asleep.
  • On longer flights, take melatonin when you're ready to sleep. This should be whatever dose works for you. For me, it's the ridiculously small amount of 250 micrograms. Available at Trader Joe's in chewable tablets.
  • Have an eyeshade and ear plugs/noise-canceling earbuds ready in case of distractions. On yesterday's flight from Auckland someone in the row behind was using their reading light. Also the white noise on a 747 is really, really loud. No problem!
  • As soon as possible, your phone or watch or whatever device you use for timekeeping should show the local time at your destination. For Daylight Savings Time, change all the clocks at once (including the one in the car).
  • On the ground, eat meals that are rich in protein and lower in carbohydrates. No pasta or pizza for a few days.
  • Get some exercise, outdoors if possible. Walking and biking both work. After a regular early meeting I used to head to a noontime Spinning class. 
  • Stay awake until a normal bedtime or at least until the sun goes down. Consume caffeine as necessary. (These words powered by a nice strong cuppa black tea.)
  • Have melatonin available to use at bedtime for the first few days, if necessary to fall or stay asleep.

In New Zealand there's a new product for jet lag that seems to work for a large number of people. It's a hydration drink that you can buy as a concentrated extract. Dilute in a water bottle and drink both during and after a flight.

The active ingredients are electrolytes, B vitamins, and a polyphenol for the secret sauce. They claim there are 58 clinical studies supporting its effectiveness for jet lag. All I say is it works for me!

In the Auckland, Sydney, or Melbourne airports you can buy 1Above in person at a kiosk. Unfortunately it's only available in New Zealand and Australia right now. But, good news….there's this thing called the Internet where you can order… As long as you plan ahead and order 2 weeks in advance, shipping appears to be free.

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