Whether you are traveling for a vacation or for business, jet lag can turn any trip into a nightmare. With symptoms that include daytime sleepiness, nausea, fatigue and insomnia, we’d agree that getting back on track with sleep as soon as possible is a good idea.
President of the American Academy of Sleep Medicine and certified Sleep Physician, Dr. Timothy Morgenthaler, recently shared some great advice for travelers who find themselves battling jet lag in his article on The Huffington Post.
Dr. Morgenthaler suggests sticking to your native time zone if you are traveling across less than 5 time zones or traveling to a different time zone for up to 4 days, avoiding the confusion of your biological clock.
However, if you are traveling across more than 5 time zones or traveling to a different time zone for more than 4 days, gradually adjusting to the new time zone can benefit you. To get started, try his tips below:
Start on the right foot: If you know you have a long trip in a different time zone coming up, start on the right foot by making sure you are sleeping properly before you get on the plane. Sleep deprivation will make it more difficult to conquer jet lag symptoms, making you more tired and cranky.
Beware of your home clock: Your body is still keeping up with the time back home, be aware of your daily sleep routine so you’ll be able to gradually change your natural clock.
Embrace light: Light has a big influence on your biological clock, keeping you in sync and ready for bed at the right time. When you are changing time zones, it’s easy to get off track. Just remember:
If you are traveling west: Your trip will probably take place during the day, making your body clock behind that of the locals. Avoid light early in the mornings for the first few of days of your trip, but seek it out for a little while late in the evenings and go back to practicing complete darkness as you sleep throughout the night. You’ll feel sleepy late in the day and light therapy will wake you up and help you sync up with everyone else.
If you are traveling east: Overnight travel usually occurs when you are going this direction. Avoid light in the early morning hours, then embrace light around the time your body thinks it’s really morning back home. If it’s night when you arrive, don’t go to sleep, but avoid electronics and blue light. Gradually soak up natural light every 4 hours after 9 or 10am.
Fuel Your Body: It is even more important that you drink, eat and sleep well in your new time zone. Sticking to a consistent schedule will healthy foods that your body can use will speed up the adjustment.
Stay hydrated: Being on a long flight, especially one that you plan to sleep most of, can be dehydrating. Wake up a few times to drink water, while skipping caffeine and alcohol.
Eat light meals: Try eating small meals as your body begins to adjust to the new dining schedule in your time zone. You don’t want to end up starving before bed and overdoing it! There is also some research that suggests fasting for 12-16 hours before your regular wake up time and speed up your body’s process of adjusting.
Melatonin Might Help: Taking 0.5 milligrams about 20 minutes before bedtime in your new time zone can help adjust your biological clock faster, eventually making it easier to fall asleep.
Jet lag is no fun for any traveler. If you find that you can’t escape the symptoms of jet lag, especially insomnia, speak to a licensed physician to prevent more serious risks.