Tuesday, July 28, 2015
How to Handle Jet Lag
Many of us travel at this time of year, so I thought I would pass on this information for those of you who are flying.
A friend of mine is flying off to Paris this week and she is looking forward to a restful trip and we talked a little bit about how to overcome jet lag.
Whether you’re flying from New York to Paris on business, or taking a vacation from Florida to Hawaii, you will probably have to deal with that bane of travellers everywhere: jet lag.
With symptoms that vary from daytime sleepiness to gastrointestinal problems to headache to insomnia, jet lag occurs when you cross several time zones quickly, putting your body clock at odds with your external environment. If you’re an Alaskan visiting the Philadelphia branch of your company, for instance, you might be wide awake (7:00 p.m. Alaska time) when the rest of your office is fast asleep (12:00 a.m. Philadelphia time). And the five hour time difference makes a seven a.m. wake up call seem like you’re being awakened in the middle of the night.
The first few days in a new time zone can make all of your normal rhythms seem out of sync. You have to wake up when you’re used to sleeping, you’re hungry in the middle of afternoon and aren’t hungry at meal times, you have to be up and active when your body thinks you should be asleep. All of this can be disorienting and downright exhausting.
Fortunately, it’s not difficult to reduce the effects of jet lag on your body. Before you leave for a foreign time zone, try to reduce your levels of stress and make sure you get enough sleep. You should also try to book a flight that will arrive at your destination in the early evening, which will allow you to go to sleep at the correct time for your time zone and get a fresh start in the morning.
Before you board the airplane, pack your carry on suitcase with sleeping aids, like night shades, earplugs, and a neck rest. These items can help you get rest on the airplane and in your new hotel room. Make sure to set your watch to your destination’s time as soon as you get on the airplane. To get acclimated to the new time zone, try to stay awake during your destination’s daytime hours or get some sleep during your destination’s nighttime hours.
You can also consider trying Melatonin, an herbal supplement that can promote sleep and decrease jet lag in some people. Although Canada and many European countries either prohibit or regulate the use of this supplement, you can obtain it fairly easily in the U.S. If you decide to try melatonin, you might consider taking five milligram doses of the supplement at the target bedtime about three to four days before you leave. Of course, you should contact your primary care physician before taking any supplements.
Once you've reached your destination, make every effort possible to adjust your activities (eating, sleeping, and exercising) to the new time zone. Try to expose yourself to natural light when possible, which can help your body clock reset itself more quickly. On your first day in the new time zone, you’ll want to stay awake until 10 pm. local time. (If you need to nap, do so for a short time during the afternoon.)
To make sure you get enough sleep when travelling, make sure your hotel room is completely dark and that you've set the temperature to somewhere between 54 and 75 degrees Fahrenheit. You might consider using a fan or a radio static to block out external noise that might wake you up. Avoid alcohol, chocolate, caffeine, and eating heavy meals at least three to four hours before you try to sleep, as all of these items can keep you awake.