On my flight home from Australia last month I was offered a meal one and a half hours in, the part of a flight I like the best. But it was 4am, not a time I usually eat, or am even awake for for that matter! Why would anyone want to eat at that hour, surely the body doesn’t need it right? But looking around the plane everyone else seemed to be enjoying their little foil packed beef curry and satay chicken. This got me to thinking, is eating on a plane a good idea?
Now I’m no stranger to the long-haul flight, I have been traveling to Australia back and forth for longer than I wish to remember (like I’m going to own up to my age here…). The one thing that gets me every time is my erratic eating patterns during and after the flight. I find my apatite adds to my jet-lag symptoms, my stomach rumbles waking me up at all hours, and then I’m not interested in food at meal times. Surely there’s a way to soften this effect, and perhaps nutrition can help with with my sleep patterns when I’m facing the dreaded jet lag. Well it turns out, there is, let me explain….
Jet-lag is the side-effect of our body adapting to a new time zone, thus it’s a shift in our internal body clock. Our internal clock, or circadian rhythm, is responsible for all sorts of biological activities including regulating our apatite, our sleep patterns and even our body temperature. Thus when our clock is out, all of these biological functions are thrown out too. No wonder that we find ourselves being less alert, motivated and confused after a long haul flight!
Jet lag tends to be felt most in the daytime, and it causes us to crave and need things at inappropriate times like needing a bowl of cocoa pops at 4 in the afternoon. Travellers often find this more acute when traveling East, as the body is happier to accept a longer day than it is to be in bed far too early twiddling your thumbs.
So what can we do to help our internal clocks during and after a flight?
Pay attention to meal times!
Pay attention to mealtimes. When you eat plays a crucial role in keeping and changing the body’s internal clock, which is known as feeding-induced phase resetting. Instead of diving straight into the tray of packaged food the flight attendant brings you, think about whether you would be eating at this time at your destination. If you’re taking a night flight, perhaps you don’t need a midnight snack or second dinner. By keeping your meal schedule time appropriate for your destination you are resetting your internal clock and helping ward off some of the affects of jet-lag.
Another way of warding off jet lag is looking at what we are eating. Recent research has indicated that insulin helps regulate sleep and helps your stomach know it’s mealtime. So meals that induce a large amount of insulin production, like carb heavy meals, are perfect to send you off to sleep. For those of you with sleep irregularities, insomnia and of course a bad bout of jet lag, carbs at night may be the answer.
So for all you globe-trotters out there here’s a little rule to help you avoid jet-lag- proteins for breakfast, carbs for dinner and only eat at mealtimes!
List of foods that will help you get a better, jetlag-free night’s sleep:
- Carbohydrate rich food- like porridge, pasta and brown rice
- Hot milk
- Melatonin tablets- sometimes you just need them!
Things to do to stave off jet-lag
- Exercise early in the day
- Drink water, not alcohol on the plane
- Go sit in the sun to accustom your body to it’s new time-zone, and to improve your tan while you’re at it! (supposing of course the sun is out and about)
- Change your watch to local time, who cares what time it is at home now you’re on holiday right?
- Don’t nap!
Image of the ever perfect Grace Kelly for Life Magazine