Are Steam Showers Good for Jet Lag?
Are you suffering from the dreaded desynchronosis? Or maybe a bad case of circadian dysrhythmia? Relax. These aren’t ghastly diseases—they’re just the medical terms for jet lag. Jet lag is a truly modern disorder; after all, before the invention of jet airplanes, a human body simply couldn’t zoom 5,000 miles east-west or west-east on, say, a Wednesday. Even the concept of time itself has shifted.
Greenwich Mean Time was proposed in 1876, and it wasn’t until the 1930s that most countries in the world adopted hourly time zones. These days, about 2.8 million Americans travel via plane each day, crossing multiple time zones. Many of these airline passengers will feel the effects of jet lag upon arrival.
What Exactly is Jet Lag?
Jet lag is caused by disruptions in the body’s internal biological schedule: our circadian rhythm. People associate that most with sleep cycles, but the circadian rhythm is involved in all sorts of bodily functions, including digestion, blood pressure, and hormone regulation. Symptoms of jet lag can include disturbed sleep, such as feeling wired all night and super drowsy by day. Our brains seem stuck in the wrong gear—researchers think effects on memory, language and coordination are possibly due to temporary changes in the brain’s hippocampus. Adding insult to injury, headaches, nausea, indigestion and irritability can occur. Good times, good times.
How to Get Over Jet Lag
Seasoned travelers have a few tricks for avoiding jet lag. They stash earplugs and an eye mask in their carry-on bag, try natural jet lag remedies like melatonin, and reset their watch immediately to the new schedule of the destination. Staying hydrated is another important natural jet lag remedy. But there’s another natural way that couls help the body regulate after a long trip: Take a steam shower.
Rebalance Internal Clocks
When the body’s circadian rhythms are thrown out of whack, day and night literally get mixed up. The results: people lay wide awake at 2 a.m. battling insomnia, and come morning, feel like zombies—no amount of espresso seems to help. Other travelers will pop awake at 4 a.m., hungrily counting down the hours until the local diner will open, and by mid-afternoon, they can hardly keep their eyes open. To get the body back on schedule more quickly, get as much sunlight as possible during the day. And in the evening, enjoy a relaxing, 20-minute steam session. Not only is a steam shower relaxing mentally, it may even promote REM sleep, leading to deeper, more truly restorative sleep. See more at “Steam Your Way to the Sleep of Your Dreams.” To further lull the body into a natural state of sleepiness, try playing nature sounds, a guided meditation, or relaxing music via your steam shower’s MusicTherapy system.
Hydrate the Body
Inside a plane’s cabin, the air is super low dry, at only about 12 percent humidity, according to Conde Nast Traveler. Compare that with the 25-percent humidity found in the Sahara Desert, and it’s easy to understand why passengers stagger off a plane feeling parched. Steam bathing just might help. Warm, moist air hydrates and lubricates dry skin, and soothes scratchy dry throats. A steam shower may also help with overall respiratory health, possibly promoting sinus drainage and opening up stuffy nasal passages. Boost these potential benefits even more with aromatherapy.
Aromatherapy for Jet Lag
Many travelers turn to essential oils as a potential jet lag remedy. The AromaSteam system makes this easy by infusing botanical fragrance right into the steam, delivering a steady stream of scent that may either uplift or relax the body. For boosting energy and fighting fatigue, choose invigorating scents such as mint, eucalyptus, and evergreen. To improve sleepiness when feeling wide awake, try calming lavender. According to an article by sleep doctor Michael Breus, lavender works as a sedative, promoting a sense of relaxation and calm. It may also reduce inflammatory responce mechanisms, he notes, and works with the neurotransmitter GABA to calm overall nervous system activity.
Beat the Bloat
Another potential benefit of steam showers is they may promote an increase in blood circulation, and they have been shown to promote the reduction of excess sodium in the body. That means that taking a steam shower may help a jet lagged road warrior feel less bloated and puffy after a long flight.
Unwind Tight Muscles
No, you’re not imagining things. Airplane seats have been shrinking. According to the nonprofit group Flyers Rights, the average width of seats has decreased 18.5 inches to 17 inches, and leg room has decreased from 35 inches to 31 inches. Spending hours in a cramped seat is naturally going to result in sore backs, tight necks, and aching legs. A steam shower may help soothe these aches and pains by potentially increasing circulation and bringing oxygen into the muscles. So sit down, relax, and let go of the knots with a nice long steam.
In fact, after a few restorative steam showers, you’ll feel ready to take on your next big travel adventure. Or at the very least, have the energy to finally unload that suitcase.
For even more ways steam showers can boost wellness for frequent fliers, check out the article The 41 Benefits of Steam Bathing.