When you start skipping time zones, you bet you’re going to feel a little off. For those of you who are frequent flyers, you know this effect all too well. Of course, you can’t manipulate time, but you can minimize the amount of time it takes you to get back to your old self.
What is Jet Lag?
Jet lag is a temporary condition that causes individuals to experience fatigue, insomnia, and a wide range of other problematic symptoms. If you have experience jet lag before, you know that it can greatly affect your alertness and ability to sleep. Although common, jet lag is actually a minor sleep disorder.
Interestingly, in the past, jet lag was known to be a ‘state of mind.’ Of course, studies have since shown that this phenomenon does cause some significant changes to one’s biological clock. You’ve probably heard the term ‘circadian rhythm’ before — which is essentially the your body works during a 24-hour cycle.
From hormone levels to body temperature, each and every day, your body goes through patterns. Since these patterns are dramatically affected by light, changing time zones will influence your ability to sleep and wake up. This is because when arriving in a new country or time zone, your circadian rhythm takes time to adjust.
Stuck in a routine pattern, your biological clock can be messed up for days. It may be 2 PM, but your body thinks it’s 10 PM — and that, my friend, is jet lag. So, how do you deal with it?
Rewind Your Body Clock
You can take action before, during, and after your flight to try and reduce the effects mentioned above. The first thing to do, if possible, is select a flight that will arrive in the early evening. Then, force yourself to stay up until 9 or 10 PM local time. If you need to nap, do so — but set an alarm. The last thing you want to do is oversleep.
Before you arrive, you can even begin practicing at home — getting your body into a new routine. If it’s going to be 12 AM at your final destination, when it’s 7 PM at home, start getting up and going to bed accordingly. Time zones are easy to find out, so you can anticipate the time change well in advance.
If you are going to want to get to bed when you arrive, be sure to avoid both caffeine and alcohol. Caffeine is a stimulant and alcohol actually hinders you from reaching the deepest stages of sleep. The same is true for meals — try and adjust your eating times to be more inline with your final destination.
In order to get your head into the right mind frame, set your watch to the final destination’s local time before you take-off. This will continually remind you when certain meals or naps will be most appropriate. Once you do arrive, you may feel tired, but it’s crucial that you spend time outside. Remember, sunlight helps regulate your biological clock. Meaning, if you lock yourself up indoors, your jet lag will actually be worse.
If you’d like to take some form of medication, it’s best to avoid sleeping pills and seek more natural options — including melatonin. This hormone has received a lot of attention, as it’s a naturally secreted hormone that significantly affects our ability to sleep and stay asleep. Although effective, melatonin pills are still fairly new and in some cases, unregulated, so ensure that you’re sourcing a quality product.
The effects of jet lag are nothing new and will continue to affect thousands of people around the globe each day. Know your body — if you’re sensitive to jet lag, take every preventable and proactive measure possible. When you arrive to your final destination, do the same — trying to beat the effects before they beat you.