Jet lag, time-zone tiredness, circadian rhythm disorder, cross-over confusion, or whatever you want to call it—it is nature’s own way of saying that some of our technologies have gone too far. Mankind regulates according to an “internal body clock” that tells us when we should be sleeping or waking up. Since it wasn’t designed to travel long distances in short times, we experience a highly unpleasant symptom called “jet lag.”
Occasional disruptions of our sleep patterns are common, and bearable. However, if the disruption is caused by mismatch of external environment and the body clock – which is the case of jet lag – it becomes slightly more uncomfortable and problematic, and may even take days to get over.
But, doing a few things right might actually reduce the time it takes for our bodies to adjust to the external environment. Here are a few tips on how to beat jet lag and recover in little or no time!
1) Gradually Adjust Beforehand: Try and alter your sleep patterns before you go. Experts advise that travelers heading east should start sleeping early and waking up early a few days before they head to their destination. Travelers heading west should try and adjust their body clocks to the western time zones by sleeping late and waking up late. It won’t be an exact match. But there’s a high chance you’ll adjust pretty soon
2) Get Melatonin Prescribed: Melatonin is a natural hormone that is released when our bodies know that “it’s dark” outside and it’s time to sleep. Get your doctor to prescribe you melatonin supplements if you’re looking for a quick and easy solution to beat jet lag.
Experts advise that you should take these for a few days before or during your travel when it gets dark in you destination. Or if you prefer taking it afterwards, make sure you pop one after the sun sets so that you’re ready to sleep at just the right time. Incorrect usage of these pills may disrupt sleep cycles even more, so be sure to consult your doctor before you take them.
3) Use your flight-time to reset: If you’re going to be on the plane for a long, long time (which is most likely since you’ll be traveling several time zones) you can use your flight-time as an opportunity to sleep and reset. Since you won’t exactly be at home or in the right time-zone when you travel, it’s a perfect opportunity to reset your clock. Try to sleep according to your destinations night time, even if that means having to sleep again after only a few hours. This will also ensure that you’re well-rested and functional when you arrive.
4) Force yourself to stay awake after you arrive: It may be tempting to doze off at 4pm and stay asleep till 11pm after you arrive, but it’s certainly not going to help you adjust. Instead, try to stay awake until local bed time. Keep yourself busy, go for a walk, or perform other activities that stimulate the mind and body. When it’s finally local bed-time, give in to your need for rest.
5) Put away the laptops and cell phones: While some believe that watching a movie on the place may put you to sleep, Forbes says that it might actually do the opposite. This obviously makes sense since using your cell phone of iPad before you sleep has the same effect. Not only does it keep you busy and prevent you from falling asleep, but also emits a special “blue-spectrum light” that actually tricks our brains and delays our sleep. Put these devices away even after you’ve arrived. They could be the very reason you’re not sleeping according to local time and allowing your body to adjust.
6) Let the light in: After you arrive, nap time could be conflicting sunshine time, but there’s a simple solution to it. Since melatonin in released when your body clock knows that “it’s dark,” you could tell it otherwise by soaking up the sun. Sunlight shuts off the body’s production of melatonin and tells your body that it’s no longer nighttime. Get bright light early in the day by taking a 15-20 min walk after you arrive. Avoid using sunglasses so that the light reaches your pineal gland faster and tells it to stop releasing melatonin.
7) Avoid caffeine: As tempting as it may be to use caffeine to adjust your body clock, it’s best to stay away from them until you’ve fully adjusted. Forbes states that U. of C.’s Medalie advises against the use caffeinated beverages on “flying day” as well since it could make it more difficult to sleep on board and has long-lasting effects.
Bottom Line: Trying out these tips shouldn’t hurt, especially if you tend to travel very frequently! Beating jet lag means giving yourself the chance to enjoy your vacation to as much as possible, and as early as possible!
Hannah Williams is associated with Essay Plusas a content manager . She is also a regular contributor to many popular educational blogs.