Jet lag isn’t just a complain brag made up by people who vacation in exotic locales or whose important international jobs take them half way around the world. Taking your body from one place and dropping it off three time zones away or more creates neurochemical chaos in your brain. It can take days or even more than a week before you can recover and get yourself back on a normal sleep schedule. Here are some tips on how to deal with jet lag.
1. Act Like You’re Already There OR Act Like You’re Still at Home
These two options depend on how long of a trip you take. If you’ll only be staying in a different time zone for a day or two—such as a short business trip or a weekend away—you’ll probably be better off NOT trying to adjust to the different time zone. Pretend that you are still in your home time zone while you’re away, even if that means sleeping before the sun has set or waking up very early in the morning. When you head back home you won’t be jet lagged at all.
If you’re looking at a lengthy stay, you should prepare for jet lag. Start adjusting your sleep schedule the week before you travel. If you’re flying east, try going to sleep an hour earlier and waking up an hour earlier for a few days. Go to sleep an hour later and waking up an hour later if you’re heading west.
Get a restful sleep before you fly, eat a light meal before you get on the plane, and be well hydrated. You will put less stain on your body doing these things.
Set your clock to your destination time zone and start acting that way: sleep if it’s nighttime where you’re going, stay awake if it’s daytime there. When the drink cart comes by, don’t be tempted into having anything alcoholic or caffeinated. Your body will adjust better without either of these in your system, which will only make your jet lag symptoms worse.
4. After You’ve Landed
More important than trying to slip into the new time zone is to adjust your amount of light exposure. Light levels affect your brain’s sleeping mechanism. In the mornings get lots of light, whether it’s sunlight or artificial. Try to limit your light exposure starting in the afternoon: go to dimly lit indoor restaurants and cafes and close the blinds when you’re back at the hotel. You also may want to limit your screen time, as their light levels will keep you up as well.
5. Try Taking Melatonin to Get to Sleep
Melatonin is naturally produced by the brain when it’s time for us to go to sleep. The kind that you buy over the counter and in medicines is usually made synthetically. Keep in mind that this is a hormone that will alter the way your body works, so before you use it you should check with your doctor first.