Traveling is such a hassle. There are baggage issues and weight limits. There are long lines and restrictive requirements during the security check in. There are small seats, crowded airports and crying children seated near you. The last thing you want to have happen is to finally get to your destination and feel bad due to jet lag.
The technical term for jet lag is desynchronosis. It occurs when your body tries to adjust to an abrupt time-zone change, which affects your circadian sleep rhythms. The circadian sleep rhythms are the body’s natural clock. If you always get sleepy at 11 pm and you always wake up around 7 am, that’s your natural sleep rhythm. When you cross time zones, you are also altering the time at which you experience sunrises and sunsets, which influences when our bodies feel tired or wake up.
In order to help alleviate jet lag, try some of these tips:
Prepare ahead of time! Start adjusting your sleep schedule the week before you go on vacation. Don’t make major changes – just gradual ones. Then as you get to your destination, you won’t have such an adjustment to make.
Eat Right: A body that is receiving all the proper nutrients and care is a body that can adjust to sleep rhythm changes much better than one that is neglected. Taking care of yourself allows you to be more flexible when needed.
Exercise: Not only do you want to get good physical exercise as a rule, but during a long trip, get up and move around. Stretch a little and walk up and down the aisles. This keeps your circulation moving and prevents muscle aches and even headaches.
Drink plenty of water: Travelling is dehydrating. And you may not realize it until your body is showing signs like headaches and irritability. It’s better to sip 8 oz of water per hour that you are travelling. This is just another way of taking care of your body so that you can better cope with the change.
Don’t drink alcohol: Alcohol allows you to ignore your natural sleep rhythms. That’s why parties can sometimes go on all night even when someone’s bedtime is midnight. It’s best to wait until you get to your destination before having that glass of wine or nightcap.
Limit caffeine: It’s temptingto use caffeine to push your bedtime out, but you’re better off not changing how much caffeine you normally drink per day. Caffeine can dehydrate a system as well, which will automatically make you feel bad. If you really think you need some caffeine to stay awake, have a small cup and then get up and move around.
Fly overnight: If you have control over your schedule, it’s almost always better to catch the overnight flight which will bring you to your destination in the early morning hours. Buy a good set of noise cancelling headphones and simply snooze all the way there.
Give yourself time to adjust: If you can help it, don’t schedule anything majorly long that first day. Let yourself get to bed a little early and set your alarm for the proper time on day two.
Use the natural sunlight: Our body rhythms naturally respond to sunlight, which is why it’s sometimes very difficult to sleep in a room full of sunshine. If you are starting to feel tired after you arrive, get outside and get some extra sun.