It is possible to overcome jet lag
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Jet lag is similar to transitioning in or out of daylight saving time. However, adjusting to daylight saving time only requires a 60-minute shift in your circadian clock, while flying can throw your schedule off by several hours. The more time zones you cross, the more your schedule will change and the more help you may need to overcome jet lag.
What is jet lag?
According to the Mayo Clinic, jet lag is a temporary sleep disorder that can affect anyone who quickly travels across multiple time zones. While jet lag itself is not a concern, the symptoms, such as loss of focus, can lead to poor judgment and serious or even deadly accidents, especially if you’re operating a motor vehicle or heavy machinery.
Besides the inability to focus and function at your normal level, jet lag can cause fatigue, insomnia, digestive problems, loss of appetite, mood changes, a general feeling of unease or being unwell and other problems. While these may be troubling issues, again, they are temporary. The Mayo Clinic states it takes about “a day to recover for each time zone crossed.”
However, there are things you can do and devices you can buy that can help reduce the severity and duration of jet lag symptoms.
Why do I get jet lag?
Before determining the best strategy to solve any problem, you first need to understand the source of the trouble. Many people think jet lag is merely caused by not getting enough sleep. This is only part of the problem. It doesn’t explain why you can get jet lag traveling west — when you get extra hours in your day.
The actual cause of jet lag is when your circadian clock, which is set by sunlight, is out of sync with the time zone you’re in. Your daily schedule is set by your exposure to daylight, such as when you get hungry, when you need to move your bowels, when you’re most alert, when you get tired and other things. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention explains it succinctly, “Your body’s circadian clock responds to light as a signal to be awake, and dark as a signal to fall asleep.”
When you travel to a different time zone, your body gets confused because the sun isn’t rising and setting as it did in your previous time zone. This means your internal alarms are not set for the new time zone, so you might not be hungry at dinner or tired when it gets dark. You might have to go to the bathroom in the middle of the night or wake up before the sun. These are all problems caused by your unmoored circadian rhythms.
Strategies to help you beat jet lag
Now that you better understand what actually causes jet lag, you can take steps to more effectively reduce symptoms, so you can adjust to your new time zone in less time with less struggle. Here are some of the best ways to do that.
- Prepare before you travel: If you’re traveling west, stay up an hour or two later each night to try to shift your sleep schedule. If you’re traveling east, go to bed an hour or two earlier (if possible).
- Consider a sleep mask: To help you fall asleep while the sun is still out, consider purchasing a sleep mask.
- Change your eating habits: As you prepare to travel, shift your eating habits to coincide with your new sleeping patterns.
- Drink plenty of fluids: Being dehydrated can intensify the symptoms of jet lag. Keep hydrated while traveling and avoid alcohol.
- Sleep on the plane: If it’s a nighttime flight, try to get some sleep on the plane.
- Exercise: Before and after you travel, make sure you get your steps in.
- Adapt as quickly as possible: Once you’re in your new time zone, get on a local schedule as fast as possible. This includes meals as well as sleeping.
- Stay awake: On that first day, fight the urge to sleep until it’s actually bedtime.
- Consider a short nap: If staying awake throughout the first day is just not possible, take a short nap. Do not sleep more than 30 minutes, as this will only make falling asleep at night more difficult.
- Expose yourself to sunlight in the morning: Invest in a wake-up light if you’ll frequently be traveling across time zones.
- Use melatonin sparingly: While melatonin can help trigger your body’s desire to sleep, it is not recommended that you become dependent on substances to fall asleep.
Best products to help you beat jet lag
Hatch Restore Sound Machine
This wake-up light can help travelers who cross time zones. It’s an alarm that wakes you with gradual bright light to help reset your circadian clock. You can use it before your trip to help your body naturally adjust to the sunrise (and sunset) of a different time zone.
Sold by Amazon
Eclipse Fresno Modern Blackout Curtains
If you need to go to sleep earlier to adjust to a new time zone, you can benefit from a blackout curtain. This one blocks over 98% of the light that enters your bedroom through the window to provide a better sleeping environment. The thick construction also dampens environmental sounds, making it quieter as well.
Sold by Amazon
Asutra Silk Eye Pillow
Another quick and easy way to block out sunlight is to use a sleep mask. This model is filled with lavender and flax seeds for a gentle scent and comforting weight.
Sold by Amazon
Marpac Yogasleep Dohm The Original White Noise Machine
If environmental sounds are interfering with sleeping, a sound machine can help. This fan-based model delivers a smooth, soothing sound of rushing air. It has two speed options so you can choose the one that’s most pleasing to you.
Sold by Amazon
Melatonin is a hormone that your brain produces when it gets dark. Taking a supplement can add melatonin to your system to help make you feel sleepy so you can drift off when needed to help reset your circadian clock.
Sold by Amazon and iHerb
Hidrate Spark PRO Smart Water Bottle
Staying properly hydrated isn’t just something you need to do to combat jet lag. It’s something you need to do every day. This smart water bottle glows to let you know when it’s time to drink. If you sync it to your phone, it will let you know if you’re getting enough water throughout the day.
Sold by Amazon
Trtl Travel Pillow
It can be difficult to sleep when sitting up. A travel pillow holds your head and neck in a comfortable position so you can get some rest on that overnight flight. This model is lightweight and compact, making it a solid option to take with you in your carry-on.
Sold by Amazon
Other products worth checking out
- The Bedtime Bliss Sleep Mask comes with earplugs to block out sound as well as light.
- The compact, modern design of the HoMedics SoundSleep White Noise Sound Machine makes it suitable for nearly any bedroom decor.
- This Nalgene Tritan Wide-Mouth 32-Ounce BPA-Free Water Bottle is just what you need to stay hydrated throughout the day.
- The Jall Wake-Up Light Sunrise Alarm Clock can help get you back on your natural sleep schedule.
- This upgraded version of the Napfun Neck Pillow is even more comfortable for traveling than before.
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