Got your next trip planned? Use these seven tips to combat jet lag while traveling.
Traveling quickly across time zones can throw off your circadian rhythm, which causes you to experience jet lag. No, jet lag isn't a made-up term that frequent flyers use to describe being tired. It's a real thing. The circadian rhythm is our internal clock; it's what helps regulate when we should go to sleep and wake up. Changing your time zone means the time you go to sleep and when your body is used to sleeping can be out of sync.
Symptoms of jet lag include but are not limited to:
Jet lag can put a real damper on your travel plans. We've pulled together a list of tips to help you adjust to the new time zone quicker and get some sleep.
Making slight adjustments before entering the new time zone can lessen jet lag symptoms. To do this, you can gradually change your circadian rhythm to the new time zone by shifting the time you go to sleep and wake. Typically, you want the changes to be pretty small, around 30 minutes at a time. Doing this the week leading up to your trip can help you bounce back quicker.
When you change time zones, you want to adapt your activities as quickly as possible. Forget your old time zone; it means nothing to you now. That means eating and sleeping when you would normally, according to the new time zone, even if you wouldn't usually sleep for another three hours.
Before you take off, act like you are already there. Set your watch to the correct time, and sleep when you can. If you're flying when you would be sleeping at your destination, try and sleep on the plane to avoid jet lag. Small changes will make the bigger ones less drastic.
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Light is one of the most important ways your circadian rhythm determines when you fall asleep and wake up. As it gets dark, our bodies release melatonin to prepare for sleep. Spending time in the sun will help your body adjust to the new time zone by halting the natural release of melatonin. If you arrive at your destination during the day, don't immediately duck into your hotel room. Hang outside for a few hours and soak up the sun.
Sleeping in a new place can be hard. To combat this, make sure the room you're sleeping in -- whether it be a hotel room or a spare bedroom of your grandmother's house -- is conducive to sleep.
Ways to make sleeping when traveling easy:
The instinct is to reach for a cup of coffee to keep you going through the fog of jet lag, but it can actually make things worse. It's not that you can't drink it; you just need to be strategic about timing. If you arrive at your destination in the evening, drinking coffee or soda will make it harder to sleep if it's too close to bedtime. Avoid caffeinated drinks and alcohol a few hours before bed. Substitute those beverages with water to ensure you're hydrated. Dehydration can exacerbate the symptoms of jetlag.
Our bodies naturally produce melatonin to help regulate our circadian rhythm. As the sun goes down, our body is flooded with melatonin and we get sleepy. Melatonin supplements can help you fall asleep easier by jump-starting that process. Regarding dosage, 0.5mg is typically considered a lower dose, while 5mg is on the higher side.
After you take your melatonin, jump in the shower or soak in the tub to relax. Research suggests that taking a shower or bath can help you fall asleep faster. As you cycle through the stages of sleep, your body temperature naturally fluctuates a couple of degrees. Bathing helps that process along by cooling your body temperature. But not just any shower will do; you should aim for warm water about an hour and a half before bed.