Minimizing Jet Lag

Jet LagMinimizing Jet Lag

With spring in the air and summer close behind it, many of you may have air travel plans that you are looking forward to…or not. Flying to faraway places often carries with it the challenge of crossing numerous time zones. While gaining or losing one or two hours doesn’t typically pose much of a problem, travelling through three or more time zones can cause quite an acclimation problem.

Our bodies were crafted with an internal “clock”, the circadian rhythm. This inherent ebb and flow of sleep and wake cycles, which is driven by hormone fluctuations, takes its cue from our environment—the earth’s transition from light to dark, the last time you awoke, the time you eat your meals, etc. Globe-trotting across time zones can thoroughly upset this regular rhythm.

Most sleep experts agree that for every time zone crossed, it takes the body a full day to recover/ acclimate. That would mean for some distant travel destinations, you’d be headed home before you ever really adjusted. Now that simply won’t do!

My husband’s job requires him to travel to Europe and around the United States a great deal. So much so, that there are days he wakes up in a hotel and it takes him a few minutes to remember what country he’s in, much less what time it is! As a frequent time-zone-crosser, he has found, and my research has confirmed, that there are quite a few things that can be done to make the transition from here to there and back again much easier on your body.

  • Three days before you travel, begin to “live in the time zone” you are traveling to. Adjust your bedtime/rising, and even your meal intake, if possible, by one hour a day (forward or back).
  • Only sleep on the plane when traveling from east to west (bring a sleep mask and noise-cancelling headphones).
  • Once you arrive, make sure your room is well darkened at night for optimal sleeping conditions and bring along a set of ear plugs, just in case.
  • Take a melatonin supplement as “insurance” if sleep is not forthcoming—but only if you have 7 or more hours to devote to sleeping.

Bon voyage!

To return to previous Monday Morning Health Tips, click here.