Passion Points: Learning
In our ever-shrinking world of virtual offices, 24/7 availability and “global souls” (a phrase coined by travel writer Pico Iyer), one thing has seriously suffered: sleep. According to a 2007 poll conducted by the National Sleep Foundation, more than sixty percent of women frequently experience sleep problems and forty-three percent said that daytime sleepiness interferes with their daily activities. The new book Sleep to be Sexy, Smart and Slim (Readers Digest, $24.95; www.amazon.com), by Ellen Michaud and Julie Bain, draws on these findings and strategize how women can get some much-needed Zs. (And they are much-needed—for instance, a Havard Medical School Study showed that women who slept five hours a night were much more likely to gain weight than those who slept seven or more.) For frequent fliers, this means managing their internal clocks and knowing the ins and out of battling and beating jet lag, which, according to Michaud, can be done. Indagare spoke to the author about the myths, tricks and surprises she came across in her research.
How often do you travel yourself?
On average, once a month.
How did you devise your list of jet-lag tricks?
They’re all based on information from sleep medicine researchers across the country.
Which ones would you say work the best for you?
Flying first class so you can get some sleep is the best use of frequent flyer miles I can imagine. There are fewer distractions and lots of room to spread out. Also, the seats recline more fully. That means your body won’t feel the need to produce alertness chemicals like adrenaline to keep you bolt upright. So you can get a much deeper sleep than in coach. I also find it helpful to immediately switch to local time, as long as that means going to bed within a couple of hours of landing. Once in bed, I turn the air conditioner on to cool the room and block noise, and I pull the room-darkening shades closed. When my clock goes off at 6am local time, I stumble to the window and rip open the shades. The sun may blind me, but it travels down the optic nerve to my brain and turns it on. Seriously. It actually shuts down the brain chemicals that make you sleepy. I start my first day on the ground with a protein-rich breakfast like eggs Benedict to stimulate my body’s ability to produce hormones that will keep me alert.
What destinations do you find the most difficult to adjust to?
Whether I’m flying from my home in Vermont to London or LA, I just never have a problem. I’m too busy sleeping.
Are there any well-known jet-lag myths you debunked in researching the book?
That there’s nothing you can do to prevent jet lag. Totally false.
Which statistics surprised you the most during your research?
That 500,000 Americans are in the air at any given moment.
What is the single-most important advice you would give people struggling with jet lag?
Chug a bottle of water and go for a swim. Dehydration exacerbates jet lag and a lot of us simply don’t drink enough when we travel. And exercise will soothe that frazzled feeling and get everything moving in rhythm. If you can do it in the sun, so much the better.
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