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By Stephenie Karony

Wednesday, August 23, 2000

How to cope
with jet lag and perform
despite effects

Question: I'm an athlete and would like to reduce the effects of jet lag when I travel to compete in an event. Any suggestions?

Answer: Jet lag is difficult for all travelers, but it's especially hard for those who have to perform physically and mentally at the end of their journey.

Typical symptoms of jet lag are fatigue, loss of concentration, headaches, insomnia, irritability, and generally feeling junk.

To make matters worse, the more time zones crossed, the more severe the symptoms.

This is anything but an ideal time for an athlete to perform at his or her best.

The symptoms of jet lag often result in a diminished capacity. Even so, many athletes are called upon to compete within a relatively short time after arriving at a new destination.

So what can an individual do to reduce these symptoms? If possible, plan to arrive at least four days before the event. The effects of jet lag are usually at their worst two to three days after arrival, and subside rather quickly after that.

It takes about 24 hours, per time zone crossed, for your body temperature to adapt. So if you're flying from California to the Swiss Alps, you'll need at least one week to adjust to the new environment.

Also, try to schedule your arrival at a time that it won't drastically disrupt the normal routine of a day.

If the time change is four hours or under, it's worthwhile trying to get yourself on a more appropriate sleep schedule. In other words, before you leave on your trip, try going to sleep and waking up close to the times that you'll want to do so at your journey's end.

If you're going to be staying in a time zone that's three hours later, and you normally go to sleep at 11 p.m, then before you go, see if you can transition to going to bed at about 8 p.m. When you travel, that 8 p.m. will translate to 11 p.m., and you'll effortlessly adapt to your 11 p.m. bedtime at your destination.

Drink plenty of water while in flight. This will prevent dehydration. The air on a plane is very dry, so drink, drink, drink.

Water, that is. Avoid alcohol, tea and coffee on planes, as they are all diuretics.

Once you've arrived on a westbound trip, go to sleep earlier than local time dictates. On eastbound trips, do a light bout of exercise on the evening of your arrival. This will help you adjust to the local time zone.

Start eating your meals consistent with the new location as soon as possible. Mealtimes and eating are very effective resynchronizers. They help to ground a person and get their biological clocks in sync with their new location.

Did you know that flying westward is easier to adjust to than flying eastbound?

Also, younger athletes, actually younger individuals in general, tolerate disruptions of body rhythms better than older people.

It's also true that the more fit a person is the less they'll experience the negative effects of jet lag. This is not to say that they won't have jet lag, it's just not as severe.

One last thought. Accidents and sports injuries are much more likely to occur under the effects of jet lag. So do everything possible to give your body time to adjust before going all out for your team or sport.

Health Events

Stephenie Karony is a certified health
and fitness instructor, a personal trainer and the author of
"Body Shaping with Free Weights." Send questions to her at
P.O. Box 262, Wailuku Hi. Her column appears on Wednesdays.

E-mail to Sports Editor

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