As a dancer you might have the good fortune to travel the country, or even the world. On tour you may find yourself practically living on planes and in hotels only to perform and move onto the next city within twenty-four hours. Travelling between times zones is especially exhausting. It drains energy, stresses the hormones and, over long periods of time, accelerates aging.
Melatonin is a natural hormone produced in the pineal gland of mammalian brains as part of the endocrine system. It helps to maintain circadian rhythm, the body’s natural dependence on day and night. Melatonin secretion typically starts at 9pm to initiate sleep and stops at 7:30am. Melatonin production is inhibited by light and permitted by darkness. Melatonin functions as the brain’s sleep hormone but has also been shown to be an antioxidant and protective against oxidative stress and energy loss in the mitochondria of human cells. It also has lesser-known benefits in supporting the immune system, fighting infection, stabilizing blood sugar, reducing age-related inflammation, improving dreams and helping to maintain a happy mood. Production of melatonin is hampered by travel, irregular sleep patterns, the short days during the winter months, exposure to light in the evening and pre-bedtime stress.
Five best habits to reduce the effects of jet lag while travelling:
1) Wear a sleep mask to shut out light so the stress hormone cortisol is not activated prematurely.
2) Add a drop of pure lavender or chamomile essential oil to the mask to activate relaxation.
3) Increase food sources of melatonin when travelling. Among the choices – bananas, cherries, rice and other grains, herbs, grapes, olive oil, wine and beer.
4) Go easy on the caffeine – drink organic green tea instead to perk up. Green tea also contains relaxing L-Theanine – it increases brainwaves and can relieve worry.
5) Practise alternate nostril breathing, a form of yogic breathing some believe resets the pineal gland.
1.2 kg raw organic rolled oats
100 g ground raw flax, sunflower seeds and almonds in a ratio of 3:2:1
10 g hazelnuts – raw and ground
20 g walnuts – raw and ground
22 g mixed nuts (brazil, cashew, pistachio, etc.) – raw and ground
25 g shredded coconut
20 g raw sunflower seeds
50 g raw pepitas (pumpkin) seeds
20 g raw sesame seeds
50 g dried unsweetened cherries
80 g sultana raisins
About 10 chopped dried figs or apricots
Mix and store in 1/2 cup containers that are easy to travel with. Eat as a bedtime snack when travelling and home.
Adapted from janeteresa.com/good-sleep-food-home-made-muesli