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Dealing With Jet Lag

We’ve all talked ourselves into booking the red eye and immediately regretted it. Jet lag is the all-too-common feeling of struggling to sync your body’s natural circadian rhythm with the time zone you’re traveling to. Your phone may automatically update to the correct time, but your body will not.

When we push our internal clock by trying to adjust quickly to a new time zone, the lag hits us with general sluggishness, disturbed sleep, difficulty functioning, and even an upset stomach in some cases. It is thought that jet lag can take up to a day per time zone crossed to fully dissipate. So, if you take a 7-hour flight, your body may need several days to realign your circadian rhythm with a new clock.

Tips for Dealing With Jet Lag

When you travel, it becomes increasingly difficult to maintain everyday routines that promote sleep (e.g., bedtimes, meal schedules, light exposure). Fortunately, there are tools you can use to get the rest you need

Check out these strategies for aligning your internal clocks with your new time zone :

  • Skip the meal: Saying no to the in-flight meal can keep your body on track. Meals are a primary regulator of your body’s internal clocks, and airlines time them to placate hangry customers, not sync with your circadian rhythm.
  • Blinded by the light: When sleeping on planes or during odd hours in hotel rooms, consider wearing an eye mask. If you’re working on an electronic device when you should be winding down, try blue-light blocking glasses.
  • Turn up the temperature: Your body naturally cools before bed. If you need to jumpstart that process, take a hot bath or shower before your target bedtime. Your body reacts to the hot shower by cooling afterward.
  • Sleep it off: Mimic the schedule of your travel destination a few days in advance. Gradually adjust your bedtime by thirty-minutes to nudge your circadian rhythm towards the new time zone.
  • A dose of melatonin: Avoid sleeping pills, but consider using a light dose of melatonin on your first night as a training period for your body. Be sure to do your research as doses can vary widely.
  • Staying awake: Avoid caffeine, heavy meals, and alcohol until your body adjusts. If you need to stay alert, try walking on the flight or exercising once you arrive at your destination.
  • Ask for help: Notify a steward if you’re hoping to catch some zzz’s on the plane. They can help ensure you’re not woken up and may be able to give you a snack if you’re managing your meal times.
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