Jet lag?It’s only been eight grueling hours on a red-eye flight from JFK to Fiumicino Airport, and you’ve already gained additional luggage — a new set of bags under your eyes. Even though it’s a brand new day in Rome, you find little delight after a sleepless night, thanks to the overly bright reading lights left on by other passengers. Now tasked with the burden of fighting extreme fatigue, you grab your real bags and hope that you don’t pass out while touring the Colosseum.

Here’s a quick definition of every traveler’s number one enemy: Jet lag occurs when you disrupt your body’s regular sleep pattern by traveling into a new time zone. You may be familiar with the notion that your body operates on an internal clock that syncs with the cycle of the sun, meaning that when we wake up and go to sleep is determined by when the sun rises and sets.

Unfortunately there’s no way to completely prevent jet lag or make it go away with one simple solution. However, there are ways in which you can minimize the effects of jet lag when you’re traveling across time zones.

Before Your Trip — Your approach to jet lag will depend upon whether you’re traveling east and losing time or west and gaining it. Training your body to stay awake longer or go to sleep earlier will be key to adjusting to a new time zone over the next few days. So in the days leading up to your trip, start to cheat towards the time zone you’re going to be visiting. This starts with controlling your exposure to both natural and artificial light. If you’re traveling east (which is more difficult to adjust to) turn on lights earlier in the morning so your body can get accustomed to waking up earlier. If you’re headed west, expose yourself to light at dusk and the early part of the evening to delay your internal clock.

During the Flight — For long flights, booking a red-eye can put you in the advantage for overcoming jet lag easily, since you can get a little sleep at a time when you normally would. Wear an eye mask or use earplugs to shut out extra light and noise to help you sleep. If you’re considering taking a low-dose sleeping pill or synthetic melatonin, talk to your doctor about what will be best for you.

If you’re traveling during the day, try to get as much sun as possible and stay awake when you arrive at your destination. Remember, controlling your exposure to light is the key to falling asleep or staying awake longer. By staying up with the sun, the natural light will help your body adjust to a new sleep schedule.

Additionally, drink plenty of water and say NO to caffeine and alcohol to avoid dehydration, which can make jet lag even worse. Even though you may think you can drink yourself into a peaceful sleep, alcohol actually reduces your chances of sleeping soundly, as it disrupts later stages of sleep. So don’t get snockered.

You Made It! Now What? – Once you’ve landed, avoid indulging in large meals – especially spicy ones – on your first day to prevent travel-related indigestion. Also, try to get as much sleep in 24-hour blocks as you normally would at home. If you arrive in Italy and it’s 4 p.m. their time, skip the two hour nap in your hotel room and stay awake until later, when the locals typically go to sleep. This will help you adjust to their time schedule, without the threat of becoming a nocturnal tourist.

Do you have a trick that helps you relieve jet leg when you travel? Share with us in the comments section below!

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About The Author

John Miller is president of ScribeWise. He is an avid traveler and web-surfing junkie. Visit www.scribewise.com.

3 Comments

  1. Travelling is one of our bonding moments with my hubby. But with jet lag problem on the side, excitement sometimes ruin the trip. But not with JetLagFX http://www.jetlagfx.com/. It’s a travel buddy i don’t want to loose. Try using it too.

  2. I also meant to add that wearing compression stockings (thigh-high is better for circulation than knee-high, says local cardiologist) helps avoid blood clots on long flights but also leaves you much more rested at your destination, because it keeps blood from pooling in your legs and feet, which makes you feel so heavy. We also take the 81 mg aspirin as a mild blood thinner at least 7 days before flying and make a point to get up and move around on the flight. (If you drink enough, it will help force you to get up to go to the restroom–a good thing. Fill a water bottle and keep it in the pouch in front of you. You need more water than flight attendants bring, though they are wonderful at trying to keep you hydrated). PS Can you tell we fly economy class and not first class or business class? Most of our travel is on a ministry budget.

  3. In our experience of traveling internationally over 25 years, some of the items above are helpful–lots of water, no alcohol, sleep mask, ear plugs (we prefer noise-cancelling headphones as much more effective). But the very best system we have found, and used many times, is based on a use of protein to boost awake times, carbs to help induce sleep, and a caffeine jolt at a particular time to reset the body’s synchronous rhythm. It works! Give it a try! The book is Overcoming Jet Lag by Dr. Charles Ehret and Lynne Scanlon. It explains why it works but also just gives info how to do it, well arranged by how many time zones you cross. Used by Fortune 500 execs & USArmy rapid deployment forces.

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