Dealing with Jet Lag

Dr. Dan JensenUncategorized

Dr. Dan Jensen
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Every traveler dreads jet lag, and wonders how many days it will take their bodies to adjust to a new time zone. Frequent fliers deal with fatigue, disrupted sleep cycles, and difficulty concentrating on tasks. Jet lag hits hard whenever you travel more than two time zones in a day and the further you travel, the groggier you’ll feel. A trip to Europe, for example, can have you struggling with jet lag for more than a week. It’s impossible to do away with jet lag completely, but there are a few things you can do to help your body recover faster. Here are our best tips for dealing with jet lag.

Start Changing You Sleep Cycle Before You Fly

Part of what makes jet lag so difficult is that your body is suddenly thrown into a new time zone, where all the light cues, mealtimes, and even social activities are at odds with your circadian rhythm. Help your body adjust faster by changing your routines before you fly. Move your bedtime earlier by 15 to 30 minutes per day in the nights leading up to your flight, and try to shift your mealtimes as well. This will reduce the number of days you’ll need to recover from jet lag when you arrive at your destination.

Drink More Water

It’s hard to remember to drink water when sitting on a plane, but you should drink more water both before and during your flight to make sure you’re staying hydrated. Don’t drink caffeine during your flight or before sleeping, and stay hydrated to get over jet lag sooner.

Make the Shift as Soon as you Step on the Plane

Don’t wait until you get to your destination to switch time zones, but do it from the plane. Change your watch and phone clock to your destination time, try to eat and sleep at the right times for that time zone, and start the adjustment period the moment you’re in the air.

Get Up and Move

It’s hard to be active in a plane, but sitting still for so many hours can be hard on the body, and make it more difficult for you to get over jet lag. Get up and move around from time to time, do some exercises, or even some simple stretching. If it’s evening when you arrive at your destination, don’t do any heavy exercises, since this could make it harder to fall asleep.

Watch What You Eat

Some flyers may eat extra calories before a flight then fast on the travel day. This won’t help you sleep, and it can make you irritable and upset during your travel day. Eat normally before, during, and after your flight, and on the flight try to eat at around the mealtime of your destination.

Soak in a Bath

Take a warm shower or a hot bath your first evening in your destination, and allow the warm water to relax your tense and sore muscles and promote sleep. You’ll feel calm before getting into bed, and the drop in your body temperature after you’re out of the bath will make it easy to curl up under the covers and drift off to sleep.

Reduce Distractions

It’s easy to control your sleep environment at home, but in a plane, or in a hotel, you may not have a lot of control over the temperature, the light, or the sounds around you. Travel with an eye mask and earplugs, and use them in the plane and at your destination so that you’ll be able to minimize distractions, and get the rest you need.

Use Melatonin For a Few Days

Melatonin is our natural sleep hormone, and it’s produced in the evenings to tell our bodies it’s time for sleep. You can take melatonin to help you sleep the first few nights at your destination, and encourage your body to sleep by taking melatonin an hour before you go to bed.

Visit a Sleep Specialist

If you fly regularly, and always struggle with jet lag, visit a sleep specialist to learn more about overcoming jet lag. Learn more ways of shifting your circadian rhythm, ask about light therapy, or ask about prescription medication that could help you deal with jet lag.