Is it any coincidence that airports experience the most traffic right around the holidays? Or that it’s those same holidays that see your waistline expanding to Santa-like proportions? According to recent research out of Israel, definitely not: traveling abroad to a distant land is one of the primary causes of holiday-related weight gain, thanks to jet lag. I mean there’s getting in the holiday spirit, and then there’s looking like the holiday’s mascot. How about this year, instead of packing on the pounds, challenge yourself to lose weight during the holidays.
All this being said, how is your flying weight and a continental trip to see your relatives connected? Well, like most other things health-related, it’s through your gut bacteria.
But have no fear, as there are some simple ways to make it past jet lag quickly, concedes Mark Moyad, MD, MPH, author of The Supplement Handbook. But it starts with ditching the sleeping pills: “While these medications do cause drowsiness,” he admits, they fail to trigger deep sleep or even improve the quality of sleep you end up getting.
But there is one sleep-inducing supplement that can be your jet-lagging hero: melatonin. Dr. Moyad claims that taking between half a milligram and five milligrams before you sleep, can help improve your sleep quality until your body re-adapts to the time change. And even though your brain makes melatonin on its own to put you to bed, some things can disrupt its normal production.
According to Dr. Moyad, “timing is critical” when it comes to jet lag and taking melatonin: “If you take it too early,” he says, “you’ll fall asleep too early and delay your adjustment to local time.” He suggests taking it at your normal bedtime “until you adjust to the new time zone.”
Don’t take more melatonin than you need, though, as you could develop a tolerance to it over time. But by taking the normal dosage during your bedtime in your new time zone, you give your body an extra boost in readjusting to the time change.
As someone who’s taken melatonin on multiple occasions myself, it can even help you if you struggle finding adequate sleep even in your own time zone– buy a bottle of the good stuff at your local supermarket or health store in the supplement aisle, and keep it near your bed for needed situations. For example, when you toss and turn for far too long and just can’t seem to experience shut-eye, melatonin could come to the rescue. I’ve gotten bottles with 60 capsules and taken one during nights that I needed it and still had the bottle last for almost a full year– don’t think you need it every night, as your body is usually pretty good at giving you proper sleep if you need it.
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