How to Survive Jet Lag3 min read
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. Learn more about how you can try to minimize jet lag and sleep better when traveling internationally.
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. You might also want to download a jet lag app to help your body adjust to the time change.
There are several more tricks you can use to beat jet lag, but we would love to hear yours. Share with us in the comments section below!