Big trips, whether they’re for business or pleasure or to compete in an athletic event, are always exciting. Traveling can be a stressful experience, but it’s not all bad. Jet lag is a common side effect of long-haul travel.
The term “jet lag” is usually used to describe the effects of flying across three or more time zones, however it can occur on any flight. Your internal body clock may become out of sync with the day-night cycle at your destination if you experience jet lag, which frequently causes sleep problems.
Maintaining a healthy sleep schedule and overall well-being when traveling can be made easier if you know how to avoid and recover from jet lag.
What Is Jet Lag?
Traveling over three or more time zones by flying can cause jet lag, which is a disruption in the circadian cycle of the body. The most common symptoms include insomnia, daytime sleepiness, diminished mental or physical performance, an overall feeling of ill health, and digestive problems.
From a few days to a few weeks, jet lag might be experienced. Traveling east and across multiple time zones is more likely to cause jet lag.
Jet lag does not effect everyone the same way. Jet lag can be made worse or last longer depending on your travel plans and individual characteristics.
What’s the Best Way To Reduce or Resolve Jet Lag?
Get your body’s circadian cycle synced with the dawn and sunset timetable at your destination to get over jet lag. Jet lag symptoms can be minimized by a variety of methods as well.
Realigning Your Circadian Rhythm
The key to overcoming jet lag is to keep your body’s internal 24-hour clock in sync with the 24-hour day at your destination as soon as possible after landing. It depends on the specifics of your journey as to what is the most effective method to do this:
- Regardless of whether you’re driving east or west.
- More time zones than you can shake a stick at. (Jet lag is more likely when traveling across more than three time zones at once.)
- Time spent in transit, including stopovers, if any
- ETA for airplane arrival
- What is the duration of your journey? (including subsequent flights)
- What is your regular sleep pattern?
- Travel plans, as well as any upcoming commitments you may have
There is no one-size-fits-all cure for jet lag because of these factors. Instead, a strategy involving light exposure and melatonin is usually necessary for promptly recovering jet lag. Circadian rhythms are strongly influenced by both of these factors, and they can be used to reset your internal clock.
To modify your circadian rhythm, timing is essential. However, the improper time of day to expose yourself to light and take in melatonin might actually worsen your jet lag and desynchronize your circadian cycle.
In spite of your best efforts, jet lag can still be an issue. Working to reorient your circadian cycle can decrease the impact of jet lag on your vacation, but everyone adjusts to time zones differently.
Circadian rhythm is influenced by light, particularly natural light. Even on a gloomy day, the brain interprets light from the sun as a key signal to regulate our internal clock.
Exposure to natural light at your destination will help you adjust to the new time zone, but you may not want to hurry outside right away. For the first few hours after landing, it may be preferable to stay out of the sun and then expose yourself to more light the next day.
The circadian rhythm is also affected by artificial light, especially technological devices. Try to avoid artificial light during times of darkness and sleep to avoid disrupting sleep cycles.
Using a high-powered light therapy lamp, or “lightbox,” can provide more illuminance and a greater circadian effect when natural light exposure is not an option.
Melatonin is a naturally occurring hormone in the human body. The creation of melatonin usually begins in the evening, a few hours before you normally go to bed. Initiating sleep and maintaining your circadian cycle are two of the most important roles of melatonin.
Melatonin synthesis might be affected when your circadian cycle is disrupted by jet lag. Taking melatonin tablets at the proper moment may help you reset your internal clock, according to a number of studies.
Melatonin is accessible without a prescription as an over-the-counter nutritional supplement. Melatonin levels can be boosted by some pharmaceutical medicines.
Melatonin is safe for the vast majority of individuals, although it might cause drowsiness or gastrointestinal issues in some people, and it may interact with other medications. Prior to using melatonin, it’s a good idea to consult your doctor.
Pre-Trip Adjustments to Your Sleep Schedule
Getting over jet lag is easier for many travelers if they take precautions to avoid it in the first place.
Slowly altering your circadian cycle the days before your flight can help you achieve this. Then, when you arrive at your location, you’ll be better accustomed to the time zone.
Improve your circadian rhythm by changing your sleep routine, exposing yourself to light at the right time, and using melatonin supplements. In order to successfully implement these changes, substantial planning is required on the part of all parties involved. The effort may be worth it, though, for those who emphasize excellent physical and mental performance following travel, such as athletes and CEOs.
Tools to Plan a Trip and Avoid Jet Lag
Avoiding jet lag can be difficult when there are so many variables to take into consideration. Depending on the specifics of your journey, a number of internet tools and apps might assist you in devising a strategy for reducing jet lag.
Depending on your itinerary and medical history, a doctor, sleep specialist, or travel clinic can provide more precise recommendations on how to deal with jet lag and adjust to your new time zone.
Minimizing Symptoms of Jet Lag
There is no cure for jet lag until your circadian rhythm adjusts to the new time zone, but you can take efforts to lessen the effects. Travel tiredness and exhaustion can be reduced by many of these strategies, as well.
- Try to get a good night’s sleep the night before your flight to ensure that you are rested and ready to go.
- Bring useful tools: A sleep mask, earplugs, and sleep-friendly clothing are some of the products that can help you get a good night’s sleep in a new location.
- Anxiety can interfere with sleep quality and worsen jet lag symptoms, so avoid it at all costs.
- Don’t cram too much into the first several days: Be prepared for some jet lag and don’t overbook your first few days in your new location. Make sure you get enough sleep, and plan ahead so that you have time to catch up if you are sick.
- Reduce your intake of alcoholic beverages to a minimum because it impairs your sleep. Consequently, it is preferable to avoid or limit the consumption of alcohol both during and after the trip.
- Using too much caffeine might lead to a temporary increase in alertness, but do so in moderation. Having too much caffeine might cause you to feel jittery and make it harder for you to sleep at night.
- Drink plenty of water before, during, and after your flight to avoid being dehydrated.
- Avoid gastrointestinal difficulties caused by jet lag and long-haul flights by consuming a diet high in fruits and vegetables, which are easy to digest.
- To avoid muscle stiffness and the risk of blood clots, it is recommended to stand up and move around a few times throughout the flight.
- Physical activity is good for the mind and body, so make time for some exercise while you’re on vacation. Even the data is inconsistent, it is possible that a well-timed workout can assist your circadian rhythm.
Can Naps Help With Jet Lag?
While a little nap can help you get over jet lag-induced daytime tiredness, it’s crucial to exercise caution. Even if you nap for just a few minutes, it might have a negative impact on your sleep routine. Attempt to limit your naps to no more than 30 minutes in length and aim to nap at least eight or more hours before your scheduled bedtime.
Can Sleep Aids Help With Jet Lag?
Other sleep aids than melatonin, such as prescription and over-the-counter sleeping tablets, are ineffective in treating jet lag since they do not reset your circadian cycle. If you’re having trouble sleeping because of jet lag, a prescription sleeping pill could be able to assist.
Even when you wake up, most sleeping medications have a significant effect that leaves you feeling foggy and out of sorts for longer than intended. Sleep medicines might increase the risk of falls and accidents. Using sleep aids on a regular basis may make it more difficult to tell if you are suffering from jet lag.
It’s always best to check with your doctor before using any kind of sleep medication. They can go over the potential advantages and disadvantages of the medications, as well as provide advise on how to take them safely based on your individual travel plans.
What’s going on in my body when I have jet lag?
Your temperature, blood pressure, glucose, and hormone levels fluctuate throughout the day. For example, your body’s internal clock is controlled by the amount of light you see. When you’re exposed to light and darkness for different lengths of time and at different times of day, your body’s internal clock will adjust accordingly.
On a daily basis, your exposure to sunshine is almost always consistent in terms of duration and intensity. Even though the change is seasonal, your body has time to acclimate. It’s much more noticeable when you go by plane and quickly shift time zones. Sun patterns from your home place are still wired into your body when you arrive at your new time zone. Because your circadian rhythm is thrown off when it’s light when you expect it to be dark and the other way around, this causes sleep disturbances.
If you’re going east, you might have a hard time sleeping at night. When you travel in this manner, your body will also take longer to acclimatize. You’ll be jet lagged for the same number of days no matter how many time zones you go across. As a result, traveling three time zones east will cause you to be jet lagged for around three days.
If you’re heading west, you may find yourself waking up earlier than you’d prefer. Traveling this way, on the other hand, takes less time for your body to acclimate. How long you’ll be jet lagged is proportional to how many time zones you cross. As a result, traveling three time zones west will put you at least two days behind schedule.
10 tips for getting over jet lag
Jet lag symptoms and intensity are frequently linked to the number of time zones crossed during a trip. A person may wake up in the middle of the night, find it difficult to sleep, or feel exhausted in the middle of the day.
However, there are a number of things that may be done to alleviate the effects of jet lag. Here are a few pointers that might be useful.
1. Avoid alcohol and caffeine
It is possible to have a good night’s sleep even if you consume large amounts of alcohol or coffee. Before going to sleep at night, some people may choose to avoid both of these activities.
Alcohol and caffeine should be avoided 3–4 hours before night, according to the National Sleep Foundation.
2. Start adjusting sleep before the trip
It is recommended by the American Academy of Sleep Medicine that, if at all possible, travelers gradually alter their sleeping patterns before to departure. To do this, one must either stay up later than usual (when traveling west) or go to bed sooner than usual (when heading east).
A person can avoid jet lag by gradually changing their sleep routine prior to flying.
3. Increase exposure to sunlight
When traveling across time zones, it’s a good idea to spend more time outside in the sunlight once you arrive at your final location. Open the curtains and blinds on your windows or doors to get fresh air.
However, it is still important to protect yourself from the sun’s harmful rays by applying sunscreen and wearing protective gear.
4. Avoid screen time before bed
It can be difficult to get to sleep at night when using devices with backlit screens, such as tablets, computers, TVs, and cell phones.
A 1.5-hour period before going to sleep is recommended by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
As a result, a person may be able to adjust to their new time zone more quickly and fall asleep at a convenient time.
5. Avoid long naps
It is recommended by the National Sleep Foundation that anyone who requires a sleep keep it to less than two hours.
It’s best if they take this snooze in the afternoon.
6. Try melatonin
The American Academy of Sleep Medicine recommends taking melatonin supplements to assist people adjust to a new time zone. A gland in the brain produces melatonin, a natural hormone that aids in sleep by calming the mind and body.
There is one exception, however: The WHO (Trusted Source) does not advocate melatonin supplementation. This is because melatonin is not subject to the same levels of regulation as pharmaceuticals in the United States and other nations.
In addition, melatonin’s long-term negative effects remain unknown.
7. Consider taking sleeping pills
When considering the short-term use of sleeping medications, the American Academy of Sleep Medicine and the WHOTrusted Source both recommend consulting with a medical expert. Jet lag may be alleviated with the use of these products.
Sleeping pills should only be taken once you have reached your destination. They should not bring them on the flight, nor should they do so for an extended period of time or in defiance of doctor’s orders.
In order to get the most out of a sleeping medication, it is important to follow all the recommendations.
8. Eat lighter meals or snacks
Additionally, the CDC recommends that you avoid eating anything too heavy or hot two to three hoursTrusted Source before you plan to go to bed.
As a result, a person should instead go for light meals or snacks, which are easier to digest and less likely to impair a person’s ability to sleep.
9. Prepare a good sleep environment
Getting a good night’s sleep is something everyone should strive for. These are some examples:
- getting some shut-eye with the aid of a sleeping mask
- making the room as dark as possible by turning off all screens and lighting
- lowering the temperature in the room
- reducing background noise with earplugs
10. Get some exercise
A person’s ability to adjust to a new time zone can be aided by regular physical activity. Getting your daily dose of vitamin D from the sun while working out outside is a win-win situation.
People should avoid vigorous exercise within two hours of trying to sleep, according to the World Health Organization.
What other parts of travel can affect my sleep?
In a major city, noise can keep you awake if you’re used to calm country or suburban life. Earplugs could be a good idea to bring along. You may also find it difficult to get to sleep if you live in a metropolis but are traveling outside of it. Running a fan or utilizing a white noise app on your phone can be beneficial.
Traveling can generate a lot of anxiety for some people because of the disruption it causes to their daily routine. Request two wake-up calls if you’re staying in a hotel. You don’t have to worry about missing a single one. It will also assist you in waking up at the proper time each day.
When the temperature rises over 75 degrees or drops below 65 degrees, most people find it difficult to fall asleep. Consider taking an extra blanket if you’re heading to a place where the weather is very chilly. You should wear light, breathable clothing if you are going to a hot place. Try these tips if you don’t have air conditioning.
Altitudes of 13,200 feet or greater take a few weeks for your body to adjust to. If you suffer from breathing difficulties, anything above 6,000 feet can be a challenge. Breathing becomes more difficult when there is less oxygen in the air, which can have an impact on both your activity and your sleep. Sleep at a lower elevation than you do throughout the day. Make sure you drink plenty of water, sleep on your side, and if feasible, use a humidifier at night.
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