Don’t Let Jet Lag Disrupt Your Vacation

Written by eHealth Navigator

Jetting to exotic destinations may sound like the perfect recipe to combat stress, but not if you suffer from jet lag.  A temporary disorder caused by a disruption in the body’s internal clock, jet lag can cause fatigue, insomnia and a number of physical and emotional symptoms, including anxiety, irritability, nausea, constipation an headaches, making it difficult for you to enjoy the sights and keep to a schedule.

Jet lag is the result of a traveler’s circadian clock getting out of whack.  Your body is used to a certain pattern.  You eat meals and sleep around the same time every day, so when you travel to a new time zone, you have to adjust to a new timetable.

The natural 24-hour rhythms in your body don’t line up with the clock anymore.  It can take several days for your body to adjust to its new time zone.  It can take two to 11 days for your circadian clock to reset.  And you don’t have to be flying halfway around the world to be affected by jet lag.  Sleep experts say traveling over just three time zones can cause jet lag.

The following simple tips can help you avoid jet lag and make the most of your trip.

Before travel

Avoid sleep deprivation.  Be sure to get six to eight hours of sleep for a couple of days before your trip, as sleep deprivation will make jet lag symptoms worse.

Shift your sleep schedule.  To help you adjust to your new time zone go to bed 15 to 30 minutes earlier every day for three to four days if you are going east, and the reverse if you are traveling west to help you adjust to your new time zone.

For help adjusting your sleep schedule, try the free app Jet Lag Rooster.  Plug in your flight dates and normal sleep times, and the app will create a sleep schedule and suggest when to seek light exposure to help make the transition to your new time zone.

In flight

Avoid alcohol and caffeine.  While a midair drink may help you to relax, it can also worsen the symptoms of jet lag.  Since altitude changes the effect of alcohol speeding it up, one drink in the air is equal to two or three on the ground.

Sleep during flight.  Depending on which direction you are headed, sleeping in-flight can make your jet lag worse.  If it is nighttime at your destination, go ahead and sleep in-flight, but it’s daytime at your final destination try to stay awake to help your circadian clock adjust to the new time.

Upon arrival

Find the light.  Because circadian rhythms are largely governed by sunlight, exposure to natural light is the best way to reset your body’s clock.  Experts recommend seeking sunlight first thing in the morning at your destination.  Wake up, go for a walk around the block then have a shower.  That is going to very rapidly shut off your melatonin production and give a cue to the body that the day has started.

Pack melatonin.  While you may be tempted to pop a sleeping pill, experts say melatonin production is a better option.  A hormone that makes you sleepy at night; melatonin opens the sleep gates. Most experts recommend taking melatonin three or four hours before bedtime when the sun sets.

If you still have trouble falling asleep, taking melatonin the day you arrive and for three to four nights after can help to reset your u rhythm.  Melatonin is not addictive, but check with your doctor or pharmacist to ensure melatonin won’t interfere with any of your other medications.

For more information about healthy sleep habits click here.

Last Updated on Monday, 22 May 2017 10:01PM