Whether you have flown to another coast or another continent, you have likely noticed you felt a little worn out or “off” afterwards. Sometimes that feeling would last for days, cutting into precious vacation time. The more time zones, the worse that feeling can be. We can blame this on jet lag.
Jet lag, also known as jet lag disorder, is a temporary sleep problem affecting anyone who travels quickly across multiple time zones. Your body’s internal clock wants to remain synced with your time zone. This discrepancy between internal and actual can cause various symptoms ranging from a general unwell feeling to gastrointestinal problems, daytime sleepiness and inability to stay alert. It is temporary but can definitely interfere with your vacation plans. Worse yet, it may take several days before you are able to make the adjustment and feel like yourself again.
It may be impossible to completely come away from long travel unscathed, there are little things you can do to stack the odds slightly in your favor.
- Stay hydrated. The air on planes is very low on humidity. Good for mold and rust prevention. Bad for humans. Try to avoid alcohol and caffeine, which can also further dehydrate you.
- Try to trick your brain into a different circadian rhythm by exposing yourself to bright light during the time of day it would be daylight at your destination. Light exposure in the evening helps with westward travel and exposure in the morning helps with eastward travel.
- Allow as much light as possible in late afternoon for the first few days in the new location.
- If going west more than 8 time zones, avoid sunlight a few hours before dark for the first few days to adjust to local time.
- Stay on your new schedule. Set your watch to the new time zone before you leave. At your destination, sleep and eat at normal times for the destination and AVOID NAPS AND SNACKS.
- Acclimate to your new time zone on the plan: if it is daylight where you are going, avoid sleeping. If it is night time, try to catch some Zzzzs.
As we face the long months of winter, we hope you will be able to use these tips to escape somewhere warm and sunny.
Brooke Rieth NP