Travel Tip Tuesday - Beating Jetlag

It is hard to learn who coined the term jet lag, but the first time it was used publicly was in a newspaper article in the L.A. Times in February 1966. Jet lag derives from the simple fact that air travel allows us to change zones so rapidly that our body rhythms are left behind. When you move across time zones your body’s circadian rhythms ( your body’s 24-hour clock) that lets you know when to sleep, wake up and even when to eat is disrupted. Symptoms of jet lag can last up to a few days while you adjust and can include drowsiness, difficulty in sleeping, and trouble concentrating.

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Beating Jet Lag

Although there is no cure for jet lag there are ways that weary travelers can combat and lessen its effects.  According to a Harvard study, it takes a day to adjust for every time zone you have crossed.

Adjust to local time.  If you are traveling internationally and want to lessen jetlag start changing your sleep schedule a few days before you leave by adjusting your sleep schedule to be more in sync with your destination. Adjusting your clocks at home and lighting your house to match the time zone of your destination are ways to help facilitate syncing up your body’s internal rhythm to the new time zone.  Most experts recommend that you adjust your schedule one hour each night in accordance with the number of time zones that you will be traveling through.

Take Melatonin.  Many travelers say that melatonin helps them sleep on a flight and the first night or two in a new destination. Melatonin is a pineal hormone that helps regulate body rhythms.  Talk to your doctor to make sure this over the counter medication is right for you.

Sleep on the Flight.  Earplugs, a neck pillow, an eye mask, and loose comfortable clothes help reduce distractions and noise while trying to sleep on a plane.

Skip the nightcap.  Research has shown that alcohol has a negative impact on your quality of sleep so don’t fall into the trap of drinking before trying to sleep. 

Stay hydrated.  Drink plenty of water before, during, and after your flight and resist the temptation to drink coffee, tea, or alcohol because they promote dehydration. Studies have shown that dehydration can worsen the effects of jet lag.

Get in the “zone”.   If you are staying more than a day or two, adjust your sleeping and eating schedule to the new time zone as soon as you arrive.  The first thing you should do is to switch your wristwatch to local time upon arrival. It can be difficult to try to stay awake until it is time for bed locally but sunlight and social activities can help your body clock adjust.  Take a short nap if you need it but avoid long naps.

Handy app. - Jet Lag Rooster is a website that creates a personal jet lag plan for you based on your trip itinerary.