How to Beat Jet Lag Before It Beats You
Travel is an adventure, and so is trying to sleep after skipping through several time zones in a few hours! Anyone who has traveled overseas knows what jet lag feels like: you’re tired but you can’t sleep; your mood is low; and concentrating on a task more complicated than tying your shoes is challenging.
Jet lag is a real drag, whether you’re traveling for work or fun. It’s tempting to rely on sleeping pills to get in a solid night’s sleep when the sun goes down wherever you are. This isn’t the best way to adjust, though. Instead, try these natural, holistic strategies to conquer jet lag once and for all!
Steps to prevent jet lag
Prevention is the best medicine, and there are some easy things you can do to prevent or at least minimize jet lag before you travel:
- Go to bed a little earlier each night if you will be traveling east and a little later if you are headed west. This will help adjust your sleep schedule a few days before travel.
- Rest up in advance. Being tired as you travel only compounds the problem of jet lag, so get as much sleep as possible in the week before you leave.
- Light exposure impacts circadian rhythm and helps regulate when you feel tired or awake. In advance of your trip, if traveling east, try to get as much light exposure as possible in the morning. If traveling west, get more light in the evenings.
- Drink plenty of water while traveling. Dehydration compounds jet lag symptoms.
Try to stick with the local schedule
The reason you experience jet lag when traveling is that your circadian rhythm stays synched with your original time zone for a few days after arriving in a new location. Let’s say you arrive in London at 6:30 am local time, but it’s closer to midnight back home in New York, your body and brain will tell you to go to sleep.
Try to stay awake until normal bed time in the new time zone. You’ll be exhausted by then and should find it easier to fall asleep. Your circadian rhythm regulates not just sleep, but also hunger. Eat only at meal times in the new time zone to get it to synch up quicker.
Embrace caffeine – at the Right Time
If you need to stay awake during the day before you can crash in your hotel room, use caffeine. It will help wake you up and allow you to focus a little better. Avoid caffeinated drinks and foods from mid-afternoon on, though, as this will make it more difficult to go to sleep at the appropriate time.
Melatonin is a natural hormone. Your brain releases more of it in the dark, making you sleepy. It produces less when it’s light out, promoting wakefulness. Studies have found that melatonin supplements can help reduce jet lag. Melatonin supplements are generally safe but may interact with some medications. Ask your doctor before using it.
It’s important to take it at the right time, though. More melatonin makes you sleepy, so only take it at your targeted bedtime. Results from studies indicate that five milligrams is most useful, and that more than this dose has no increased effect.
Exercise, particularly outdoors in the fresh air, could help you get through jet lag faster. One study involving airplane crew members flying between Tokyo and Los Angeles showed that exercising outside sped up the resynchronization of the circadian rhythm. In other words, those who exercised felt better sooner.
If you can’t get outside for a workout, you can still benefit from some gentle, pre-bed exercise. Try Relax melodies’ SleepMoves session for travel and jet lag. It will walk you through easy body movements to get you relaxed and prepared to sleep in a new place.
Jet lag doesn’t have to ruin your next trip. Try some of these natural solutions to stay on schedule in a new time zone and get restorative sleep!
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