Extra Baggage: Leaving Jet Lag Behind
Prevention & Treatment The anticipation of traveling to another part of the country or the world can be exciting, until you get to your destination feeling tired, tense and touchy.
Jetting off to another time zone soon? Adjustment—that’s the key word when it comes to jet lag. And for good reason.
The problems that arise with jet lag are a clear example of how external influences can disrupt our internal body clock. All of the following relate to your internal clock:
Your sleep/wake cycles
How refreshed you feel in the morning
How easy it is for you to fall asleep at night
Whether you can recover quickly from jet lag
The fate of a shift worker who has to be productive at odd hours
Whether you’re a lark or an owl
Your mood and energy level
The strength of your immune system
So what can you do to prevent the jet lag from making your trip a drag? Here are some simple things to help fight jet lag and keep your brain healthy:
1. Time your flights
If you are only flying over two or three zones, avoid the red eye flights as much as possible. Remember, jet lag is worse if you’re traveling east.
2. Get outside and get some sunlight
Light helps reset your circadian rhythm and reduces the effects of jet lag.
3. Adjust with exercise
Exercise also helps reset your biological clock. I would not suggest running a marathon, but while you are outside getting sunlight, consider taking a brisk walk.
4. Avoid alcohol and caffeine
Both will negatively affect your sleep cycle, which will already be slightly off.
5. Resist napping on the plane
You may need to fall asleep earlier than your body is used to at your new destination. Being a little more tired could be helpful.
Melatonin might be the best answer, but melatonin often comes in an overdosed amount. (We’re talking anything over 1mg.) It’s important to check with your doctor before taking this hormone.
Another thing to think about is your hotel or cruise line. Many of the more progressive ones are now looking at creating sleep-related amenities for your comfort. Go to their websites and see if they have any special beds, pillows or programs that can help.
If you can pick your room, here are a few tips to consider:
The higher the room, the quieter the room
Ask for a room on the corner (fewer neighbors)
Try to stay away from the elevators, ice machine and stairs
Before you board
And take my traveler’s survivor kit with you:
Favorite soothing music and head phones or a device like an iPod
C-shaped pillow that fits around your neck
A nightlight to help can make your way to the bathroom without having to turn on the overhead light