Fast-traveling across time zones can be frustrating circadian rhythm, causing you to experience jet lag. No, jet lag is not a made-up term that frequent travelers use to describe fatigue. It’s a real thing. The circadian rhythm is our internal clock; it’s what helps regulate when we should fall asleep and wake up. Changing your time zone means that the time you go to sleep and the time your body is used to sleeping may be out of sync.
Symptoms of jet lag include, but are not limited to:
- Trouble falling asleep
- Difficulty concentrating
- Lack of appetite
- Gastrointestinal problems
An hour delay can really put a damper on your travel plans. We’ve put together a list of tips to help you adjust to the new time zone faster and fall asleep.
1. Start preparing before your trip
Making slight adjustments before entering the new time zone can reduce the symptoms of jet lag. To do this, you can gradually change your circadian rhythm to the new time zone by shifting the time you go to sleep and wake up. You usually want the changes to be fairly small, about 30 minutes at a time. Doing this in the week leading up to your trip can help you recover faster.
2. Live like the locals
When changing time zones, you want to adapt your activities as quickly as possible. Forget your old time zone; it means nothing to you now. This means eating and sleeping when you normally would, according to the new time zone, even if you normally don’t sleep for another three hours.
Before you take off, act like you’re already there. Set your clock to the correct time and sleep when you can. If you are flying when you sleep at your destination, try to sleep on the plane to avoid jet lag. Small changes will make bigger ones less drastic.
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3. Hang out in the sun
Light is one of the most important ways your circadian rhythm is set when you fall asleep and woke up. When it gets dark, our bodies release melatonin to prepare for sleep. Spending time in the sun will help your body adjust to the new time zone by stopping the natural release of melatonin. If you arrive at your destination during the day, don’t immediately hunker down in your hotel room. Stay outside for a few hours and soak up the sun.
4. Make sure the room is ready for sleep
Sleeping in a new place can be difficult. To combat this, make sure the room you’re sleeping in—whether it’s a hotel room or a spare bedroom at your grandma’s house—is sleep-friendly.
Ways to make it easier to sleep while traveling:
- Set the thermostat to a cool temperature to maintain comfort throughout the night. The best temperature to sleep is 60 and 67 degrees Fahrenheit.
- Pack things from home to make it more comfortable – a blanket, a white noise machine, or your favorite pajamas.
- Try using a sleep mask to block out any light in the room.
- Make sure you sleep on comfortable mattress that suits your sleeping position and body type.
5. Avoid drinking caffeine (and alcohol)
The instinct is to reach for a cup of coffee to push through the fog of jet lag, but doing so can actually make things worse. It’s not that you can’t drink it; you just have to be strategic about timing. If you arrive at your destination in the evening, drinking coffee or soda will make it difficult to sleep if it’s too close to bedtime. To be avoided caffeinated drinks and alcohol a few hours before bed. Replace these drinks with water to ensure you stay hydrated. Dehydration can worsen the symptoms of jet lag.
6. Try melatonin
Our bodies naturally produce melatonin to regulate our circadian rhythm. When the sun goes down, our body is flooded with melatonin and we become sleepy. Melatonin supplements can help you fall asleep more easily by jump-starting this process. Regarding the dosage, They are usually considered to be 0.5 mg lower dose while 5mg is on the higher side.
7. Take a warm shower or bath
After taking your melatonin, jump in the shower or soak in the tub to relax. Research shows that taking a shower or bath can help you fall asleep faster. As you go through the stages of sleep, your body temperature naturally fluctuates by several degrees. Bathing helps this process by cooling your body temperature. But not every shower will do; you should aim for warm water about an hour and a half before going to bed.