If you’ve ever traveled across time zones, chances are you’re familiar with the bane of the frequent flyer known as jet lag, which happens when we expect ourselves to be active when our body is trying to tell us that it’s time to sleep. Chaos, of course, ensues.
Aside from being bright-eyed and bushy-tailed when we should be sleeping, and feeling like a zombie when we should be at our most productive, some of the other effects of jet lag include irritability and general misery, headache and inability to concentrate, slow reaction time and body aches, and even gastrointestinal upset.
So what causes this frustrating and unpleasant state of affairs?
Simply put, changing time zones rapidly throws a serious monkey wrench into the functioning of our built-in body clocks. We all have a natural sleep-wake cycle, known as the circadian rhythm, and when it’s suddenly daytime, when it should be nighttime (or vice versa), thanks to air travel across time zones, we find our body’s internal rhythms have become out of sync with our environment.
Luckily, there are some simple and effective ways to put jet lag to bed so you can focus on your business trip or vacation…
Prepping Before You Pack
One of the easiest ways to prevent the undesirable effects of jet lag is by keeping it in mind when you’re booking your flight by following these dos and don’ts:
DON’T miss out on sleep so you can arrive at the airport before the sun rises
DO schedule your flight to arrive in the morning if flying east and in the afternoon if flying west
DON’T fly overnight if you struggle to sleep on the plane
DO choose a seat that’s away from busy areas and has extra legroom
DON’T plan to arrive at your destination too late to get a full night of sleep
DO make sure that you’re free of sleep debt the night before you plan to take off
Set Yourself Up for In-Flight Success
DO bring a carry-on with creature comforts (eye mask, earplugs, fuzzy socks, chewy sweets)
DON’T forget to leave plenty of time to navigate airport security and decrease your stress
DO wear comfortable, loose fitting clothing and shoes that are easy to remove
DON’T forget to adjust your watch and phone clock to your destination’s time zone
DO have a plan for how you’ll be getting from the airport to your final destination
DON’T dehydrate yourself and stimulate your senses by having an in-flight coffee or cocktail
Keeping Jet Lag at Bay on the Ground
DO follow the local schedule for working, eating, and sleeping – instead of your home schedule
DON’T forget to get some exposure to natural light to help boost your energy levels
DO keep your bedroom dim when it’s bedtime to keep from disrupting your body clock
DON’T avoid napping, as long as it’s brief enough to not disrupt your sleep (up to 40 minutes)
DO go for a walk or a jog to increase endorphin levels and decrease drowsiness
DON’T rely just on your alarm clock if you’re in a hotel – make good use of the wake-up call
DO stick to your at-home bedtime routine to help soothe yourself to sleep
DON’T just struggle with trying to fall asleep – use these relaxation techniques, instead…
: Picture your favorite scenes to help ease the sense of unfamiliar by calling up images of your bedroom, a comforting local scene like a much-loved nature park, or the way that the moonlight filters across your own mattress back at home.
: Instead of lying in bed beating yourself up with the fact that you have
to get some sleep, try some reverse psychology – challenge yourself to stay awake. As strange as it may sound, telling yourself that it’s okay to remain wakeful can take a load off of your mind, and help you to get into a relaxed state that will get you feeling sleepy