If you’re a frequent flier kind of person then you’re probably used to dealing with shifting time zones, but if you’re just someone trying to enjoy a vacation or to get through a far-away business trip then chances are you don’t want to deal with jet-lag.
Studies have shown that jet lag results from disruptions to your body’s 24-hour circadian rhythm — otherwise known as your biological clock. When traveling to a new time zone, our circadian rhythms are slow to adjust and remain on their original schedule for a few days. The outcome is difficulty falling asleep or remaining awake. The good news is that some simple behavioral adjustments can help minimize jet lag symptoms. Here are 9 tips you should know for how to get over jet lag.
1. Revamp Your Sleep Schedule
Anticipate time changes by getting up and going to bed earlier or later in the days prior to adjusting to the new time zone. Try to avoid naps or going to bed right when you arrive, as these practices may keep you up longer. You may even want to adapt your meal schedule pre-trip to be closer to the time when you’ll be eating them in the new time zone, this will help your circadian rhythm begin to adjust.
2. Change Your Watch
While on the plane, be sure to adjust your watch to reflect the time zone you’re traveling to, that way once you land, your watch (and your mind) will be in the right time frame. If you have a smartphone or a smartwatch, they will automatically correct to the new time zone once you land.
3. Avoid Caffeine and Alcohol
Just as in your own time zone, avoid drinking caffeine and/or alcohol at least 3 to 4 hours before bed to avoid issues falling or staying asleep. Alcohol has also been known to worsen the symptoms of jet lag.
4. Stay Hydrated
Being at a higher altitude can cause dehydration more easily than lower altitudes, so whether it’s while you’re on the plane or while you’re heading up to a place at higher altitude, be sure to drink plenty of water. Dehydration makes it more difficult for your body to adjust to a new rhythm and it’s what causes “mountain sickness.”
5. Exercise Early
Exercise or movement during the day may help you fall asleep more easily in a new time zone. That being said, be sure to avoid exercising too close to bedtime, which will more likely keep you awake. Instead, try exercising in the morning - not only will it set you up for the rest of your day, it’ll also help your circadian rhythm adapt to the new time zone more quickly.
6. Get Outside
When possible, try to get outside and be in the sunlight — you’re in a new city after all! Sunlight is a powerful factor for regulating or resetting your biological clock and balancing your circadian rhythm. So, even if you go thousands of miles east or west, if you stay outdoors for the majority of the time, you’ll likely adjust to the new time zone much quicker.
7. Block It Out
If you’re not really about the quick time zone adjustment strategy and simply want to get your rest when you want it, just make sure to bring earplugs and a sleep mask to help reduce noise and block out the light while attempting to fall asleep. You can even invest in some light-blocking drapes for the windows.
8. Avoid Travel-Related Stress
Bringing elements of your home, like your favorite pillow or blanket, can ease the unsettling feeling of being in a new environment. And to make sure you’re not waking up in a fright thinking you’ve missed your alarm, simply request a wake-up call in the morning from the front desk of the hotel. Alternatively, to avoid being woken by unwanted calls, ask the front desk to send any hotel calls to voicemail.
9. Find Your Perfect Sleep Environment
Whether we realize it or not, most of us are affected by changes in temperature, noise, altitude, sleep surface and other environmental factors. Be cognizant of which factors affect you and ensure that you do your best to make your sleep environment a nurturing one. This may mean making your room cooler, sleeping with the right amount of blankets, having white noise in the background (such as a fan), using the right pillow, and staying hydrated to avoid getting altitude sickness.
Adjusting to time zones can be tricky, but if you practice these jet lag tips on how to get over jet lag, the whole experience can be much easier. Once you return from your trip, adjusting back to your original time zone is also going to be another journey, but we’re here to help you out! If you feel like your circadian rhythm is just completely out of sync, simply book an appointment to our sleep center clinic where we’ll help you get back on track.