If you've ever flown on an international flight, you will know that jet lag can be a real hassle. It keeps you up at night when you should be sleeping and it makes you fall asleep in the middle of the day. It takes days or even weeks to get over, and according to the Mayo Clinic, the symptoms can include everything from insomnia and fatigue to diarrhea, constipation and random mood changes that can be even worse than those experienced with premenstrual syndrome (PMS).
It’s no wonder that travelers are always on the lookout for new cures for this pesky and sometimes embarrassing problem. When the normal cures like staying up until bedtime in your new time zone and drinking lots of water don’t work, some people seek out cures that are a little more bizarre — and a little more likely to earn you strange looks on your airplane.
Shining a Light on the Backs of Your Knees
Jet lag is a condition caused by a disruption of our natural light/dark cycle, which in turn disturbs our sleep/wake/crabbiness cycles. We expect it to be sunny when it is time to wake up and we expect it to be dark when it is time for us to go to bed. When you cross into a different time zone, though, these things may not hold true. The sun might be rising when your body is ready to go to sleep, and it might be getting dark just when you’re starting to wake up, throwing your internal clock completely out of whack.
With this in mind, it stands to reason that the cure for jet lag involves the one thing that throws off our body’s internal clock in the first place: light. One odd treatment for jet lag from the 1990s involves shining a flashlight on the back of your knees. The BBC reported that there are photoreceptors on the back side of our knees that are connected to our circadian cycle of light and dark. During a lab test, it was proven that shining a bright, pulsing light on the back of one’s knees for a three hour period (ideally when one is still traveling on the airplane) was enough to change the test subjects’ internal clock to reflect a new time zone. The only problem is trying to get your seat-mate to shine their cell phone flashlight on you during your flight.
Time Zone Glasses
For those travelers who think shining a bright light on their legs during a flight seems too conspicuous, there is an alternative: Re-Timer. Also referred to as “time zone glasses,” Re-Timer looks like a pair of white goggles with no lenses, and is designed to reduce jet lag and encourage sleep at the proper time. It does this by shining a specially formulated green-blue light directly into your eyeballs to simulate the change in the light/dark cycle. Designed so they can be worn over your glasses or just by themselves, these specs are the perfect way to look like a traveler from the future during your voyage or when you arrive at your destination jet lag-free. They are also rechargeable, and can also be used to combat regular, run-of-the-mill insomnia.
This treatment is a bit more extreme. Many sports fans have heard that the latest fad in athletic training is cryotherapy, a process in which athletes with sore muscles lock themselves inside a chamber with subzero temperatures to freeze their muscles and promote healing. Surprisingly, this same cryotherapy can reportedly be used to combat jet lag.
For around $60, you can strip down to your skivvies and hop inside a -200 degree chamber to freeze your patootie off for three minutes — three minutes in which your body reportedly feels as if it's dying and must fight to stay alive. According to FlyerTalk.com, this exposure to such extreme conditions wakes you up from your very core. It activates your metabolism and other processes and gives you a burst of energy that will surely last long enough to keep you awake until bedtime in your new time zone.
Unfortunately, unlike the previous two cures, there is no hard, scientific evidence that cryotherapy actually works to combat jet lag. That doesn’t stop celebrities and other weary travelers from plunging into the ice chamber, though.
No, I’m not talking about a song that gets stuck in your head that you can’t get out (that’s an earworm). Ear seeds are tiny, steel beads (or sometimes actual, literal seeds from a plant called Vaccaria) that are taped to the acupressure points in your ear as an alternative to acupuncture. According to Care2.com, all you have to do is press these seeds into the acupressure points whenever you are feeling anxious or having insomnia or other side effects of jet lag and your body will immediately begin to calm itself. The seeds are left beneath the folds of the outer ear for several days so that the body can become more balanced and at peace. Just be careful not to let the seeds get inside your ear canal — that leads to bigger problems than jet lag!
You read that right: Viagra. The drug responsible for giving guys a little extra “boost” in the bedroom could potentially be a way to perk up other things as well. According to a recent report by Smithsonian Magazine, Viagra could potentially help shorten the length of time one suffers from jet lag due to crossing multiple time zones. In one case, test subjects who were given the drug recovered four days faster from jet lag than they would have without it. The Viagra sped up the subjects’ internal clocks, helping them to adjust to the new time zone more quickly. There is a catch, though: this method of curing jet lag only works when the traveler is moving east, which means one is losing time instead of gaining it as they would be if they were moving into a time zone further west.
Oh, and one other thing: Remember the test subjects mentioned previously? They were hamsters. So there is no way to know yet if this cure works for human beings — although there are surely some people out there who would be willing to try it.
About the writer: Jessica A. Scott has been a novelist and freelance writer for over 10 years. She loves travel and divides her time between her original hometown of Louisville, Kentucky and her adopted hometown of Saronno, Italy.