For those who must travel frequently, and cross several time zones, jet lag is a common problem. Jet lag describes the fatigue you feel, and the problems with sleeping that many people encounter when the body has to adjust to a completely different time zone. The sun may be out and the birds twittering, but your body is telling you it’s time for bed. It’s often most difficult to deal with jet lag when you cross at least three time zones, and when you travel from west to east, because you’ve actually lost hours. Given that this condition can make you less able to work, or to enjoy the sights if you’re vacationing, it can help to do all you can to relieve jet lag.
There are many “remedies” and proposed ideas to relieve jet lag. However, the simplest methods for relief are the easiest, and won’t cost you much, if anything, to try. First off, if you suffer from severe jet lag every time you travel, and you must travel for business meetings, you might want to try to plan on arriving at your travel destination at least two days in advance. This extra time can give you the opportunity to adjust your body’s natural rhythms so your sleep patterns don’t have you looking red-eyed and wild during an important business meeting.
Other methods to relieve jet lag include the following. Try adjusting your at home bedtime rituals about a week before you travel. Each night, gradually adjust yourself to going to bed an hour earlier. Minimize distractions when you’re trying to sleep earlier. Turn the TV off an hour before you sleep, and if it’s still light outside, use a sleeping mask or heavy blanket to cover your windows.
If you’re taking a night flight, for example from New York to Europe, definitely attempt to get as much sleep as you can while en route. Again, use an eye mask, earplugs or earphones, and anything else that will promote your sleep. Also, when not sleeping, drink plenty of water on the plane. Pressurized air cabins tend to dehydrate people and can make jet lag seem worse. Don’t drink coffee or alcohol, which can decrease dehydration.
If you arrive in the morning, even if you’re feeling sleepy, stay up. Try to stay up until at least eight or nine in the evening of your first day in a new time zone. By going to sleep sooner, your body doesn’t have time to adjust to the new time zone and you won’t relieve jet lag, but instead prolong it. On the other hand, if you arrive at night, don’t stay up. Try to sleep, even if you don’t feel like it. You may catch a few winks that will help relieve jet lag symptoms in the morning.
It also helps to get outdoors, into the sunlight. Try to plan some non-strenuous outdoor time, or some light walking, for your first day. Exposure to sunlight helps to reset the body’s circadian rhythms, and can usually help relieve jet lag in the first few days.
Depending upon the time zone you’re traveling from, and the zone you’re traveling to, there are specific recommendations for avoiding light on the first day. For instance, a New Yorker traveling to Paris would want to get outdoors from about noon to two pm on the first day, and then on the second, get outdoors from about nine in the morning to noon. Ask your doctor, or search out time zone changes to find specific recommendations for when to get light and when to avoid it on the first few days of your stay.
Some people rely on sleeping pills, and melatonin is counted as the instant cure for jet lag. Do speak to a doctor if you plan to consider using melatonin, any type of over the counter sleeping pills, or prescription medications. Sometimes these aren’t effective to relieve jet lag and may contribute, especially over the counter drugs, to poorer quality sleep. On the other hand, other people swear by them to relieve jet lag.