One of the most difficult side effects of international travel is dealing with jet lag. Disturbed sleep patterns, feeling weak and feeling disorientated all stem from the disruption of your body clock from traveling through multiple time zones. Our bodies get thrown out of sync when they are subjected to day light at a time it perceives it to be night. Jet lag also tends to be worse when traveling from west to east as the body finds it harder to adapt to shorter days rather then longer ones. Here are a few suggestions to help keep your jet lag to a minimum.
Before a flight try to be fully rested, depriving yourself of sleep to reach exhaustion can be risky. You can try attempting to adjust your sleep patterns before your travels by either going to bed early or later; Set an alarm in the middle of the night to disrupt your sleep pattern according to your destinations time zone. Trying to get as much sleep on the plane while still accounting for the destination time zone can be extremely helpful. Setting your watch on the plane to your destination time will help get yourself psychologically aligned. While on the plane try avoiding alcohol and caffeine, these can disturb sleep and cause dehydration. Upon arrival try refreshing yourself with a shower or a swim if you can.
Try not to deprive your body of the sleep you would normally get in a 24-hour period. At minimum get your “anchor sleep”, this is at least 4 hours of sleep within a 24 hour period. A easy way to achieve anchor sleep is with power naps! Try to get 20-25 minutes of sleep when you can. Not catching a power nap or two during the first couple days and just staying up to force your body into your new time zone will only leave you lacking proper rest and will put even more undue stress on yourself. Earplugs and eyeshades will really help aid you with sleep. Melatonin, a natural hormone that the body releases at night can be taken as a supplement before sleep to help successfully reduce the effect of jet lag; Sleeping pills will just further increase the effects of jet lag. Of course, if you end up sleeping most of the day away you will just remain in your normal sleep pattern.
Our bodies have a natural programming to eat and sleep in a 24-hour period, known as circadian rhythms. Disrupting this pattern is what causes problems. Trying to get out in the daylight and eating at the regular times as the time zone you are in will greatly help in resetting this rhythm. Exercising to boost your endorphins and stretching to get your blood flowing and the kinks out will help relieve some of the symptoms of jetlag. Dehydration can play a huge part in increased tiredness so drink lots of water. It can take up to five days to feel normal after changing time zones.
There is no known way to completely avoid jet lag but you can certainly greatly reduce the effects by applying some or all of these techniques. It’s all a matter of reconditioning your body to acclimate to your new time zone as quickly as possible without over stressing it.