Dealing with Jet Lag

Dr. Dan JensenCircadian Rhythm

Dealing with Jet Lag

Dr. Dan Jensen

Following the completion of his undergraduate studies at Brigham Young University, Dr. Dan Jensen trekked to the University of Nebraska, where he received his dental degree in 1996. After he received his degree, he worked with his dad (Dr. Bruce Jensen) for five years until he moved to Alaska, where he practiced dentistry for six years. Utah family life soon called his name again and Dr. Jensen moved back to Utah where he opened up his own practice in Kaysville, UT.
Dr. Dan Jensen

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If you are planning a trip where you will fly from Boise, Idaho to Beijing, China, for example, you are in for a long, long trip. Flying non-stop you will be cramped on the airplane for several hours. If you are one of those people who can take a nap, like the rest of us you will probably experience jet lag once you arrive at your destination. Aside from the long hours of travel, you also must deal with the change of hours as you fly from one country to another.

Understanding Jet Lag

Jet lag is a very common disorder. Studies show that this results from the imbalance in our “biological clock.” When we fly to a new time zone our circadian rhythms (the 24-hour cycle our body works on) takes a while to adjust. Instead, it is still on our biological schedule. This can last for several days. You might be walking around in China, in the afternoon, when your body suddenly tells you it is time to go to bed. Or, it might be late at night and our body makes us have the desire to stay awake.

Since our body works according to the circadian rhythms they are indicated by the rise and fall of our body temperature, plasma levels of different hormones, and different biological conditions. All of these different conditions are influenced by the sunlight and our exposure to it. This helps decide when we are awake and when we are at rest.

Tips for Dealing with Jet Lag

Fortunately, instead of suffering from jet lag, there are adjustments you can make once you arrive at your destination. These “treatments” can help reduce and minimize some of the effects of jet lag. The adjustments are as follows:

  • Try to go outside as much as possible and enjoy the sunlight.
  • When sleeping, wear a blindfold and earplugs.
  • Have a light exercise early in the day and avoid heavy exercise when bedtime is nearing.
  • When you arrive at your new location avoid heavy meals.
  • Do not drink alcohol or caffeine three to four hours before you plan to go to bed.
  • When you first get on the airplane set your watch so it is in the new time zone.
  • Try to choose a flight where you will arrive early in the evening. Stay up until 10 pm local time.

Although these suggestions will not completely prevent jet lag, they will help to reduce the amount of your suffering. They will also help you to maintain your health.

Sleep Tips for Your Trip

Going without rest can also be caused by stress. This results in the “first night effect” whereby you are in a new environment. The second is “on-call effect.” This is when you have a recurring worry that something will wake you up such as the phone ringing, a dog barking, and so forth.

You should also be aware that various situations affect your ability to rest well. This is known as your environment. These include noise, your bed surface, temperature/climate, and altitudes.

Noise can amount to anything from a constantly running toilet, a dripping faucet, barking dogs, or frequent sirens in the neighborhood. These noises can keep us awake. Also, if you are used to certain noises such as the motor running on an aquarium or your refrigerator operating the lack of these noises can affect your sleeping ability. Fortunately, the unfamiliar noises can be gradually ignored. When this happens, you will be able to enjoy your rest.

The surface is the space you have to lay in a comfortable position. People usually rest better in a horizontal position as opposed to being in a cramped space.

Temperature/climate affects each person differently. Temperatures higher than 75 degrees Fahrenheit or below 54 degrees often awaken people. You need to make certain a high or low temp does not affect your health.

It’s interesting to note that the higher the altitude the more your resting is disrupted. The greatest disturbance is caused at altitudes above 13,200 feet. It is believed this is caused by less oxygen levels. It generally takes two or three weeks for a person to adjust to higher altitudes.

Your behavior is what helps you modify your body to rest. Sometimes people take sleeping pills to cope. Other people use melatonin. The latter is preferred as it affects the body’s circadian rhythms.

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Visit us at Sound Sleep Medical to assess your sleep patterns, find out if you have sleep apnea, and get the treatment you need to get back to sound sleep.