6 Practical Tips For Minimizing Your Jet Lag

Photo by Ketut Subiyanto:

Jet lag is a common, but unwelcome companion for long-distance travellers. Caused by a disruption to a person’s natural sleep-and-wake cycle while travelling to different time zones and environments, this temporary disorder can manifest as symptoms like insomnia, fatigue, difficulty concentrating, and even digestive issues.

Severe jet lag can get in the way of your normal routine, and it can also keep you from enjoying the activities you’ve planned for your out-of-state or out-of-the-country trip. Knowing that, here are six tips for minimizing the brunt of jet lag and guiding your body through a healthy adjustment to your new surroundings:

1) Make Gradual Adjustments to Your Sleep-and-Wake Cycle

One way to curb severe jet lag is to gradually adjust your sleeping schedule to fit your new time zone. This method will ease your body into the time change, rather than abruptly forcing it to adapt. 

If you’re travelling east, for example, go to bed one hour earlier every night at least a few days before your departure. If you’re travelling west, do the opposite and go to bed an hour later. Ultimately, this strategy will help your body’s internal clock, or circadian rhythm, align with your destination’s time zone. 

2) Select the Ideal Sleepwear

An often-overlooked aspect of achieving good sleep while travelling, and hence reducing jet lag, is your choice of clothes to sleep in. It won’t be easy to get some good shut-eye if your clothes are too loose, too tight, or generally uncomfortable to sleep in. In contrast, comfortable clothing will help regulate your body temperature and greatly enhance the depth and quality of your sleep. 

When selecting proper men’s or women’s sleepwear for your trip, consider the climate of your destination. Breathable fabrics like cotton or bamboo will serve you well if you’re travelling to warmer climates, as they wick away sweat and keep you cool. In colder climates, flannel or fleece sleepwear will provide you with some much-needed warmth.

Comfort also extends to the fit of your sleepwear. It shouldn’t be so tight that it restricts movement, but it also shouldn’t be so loose that it gets twisted as you sleep. Choose the type that would make it easy for you to fall and stay asleep as if you were at home, as that will likely induce the same feeling of restfulness when you’re travelling someplace else. 

3) Stay Hydrated

When travelling, especially by plane, you may easily get affected by the lack of humidity in the air. This can easily lead to dehydration, which in turn exacerbates jet lag symptoms.

It might seem like a no-brainer, but it truly helps to drink plenty of water while you’re out on your trip, especially when you’re in transit. Avoid alcohol and caffeinated beverages, as these can both dehydrate you and disrupt your sleep patterns. 

4) Choose Your Food and Drinks Wisely

Your diet also plays a big role in how hard jet lag symptoms can hit you. Avoid heavy, fatty foods and those that are high in sugar. These can disrupt your sleep and amplify the symptoms of jet lag. Whenever you can, opt for balanced meals with lots of fibre, lean proteins, and whole grains.

In the same vein, avoid consuming caffeine and alcohol too close to your intended sleep times. These will interfere with your ability to fall asleep and make it even harder for your body to acclimatize to your new time zone.

5) Maximize Exposure to Natural Light

Natural light will play a crucial role in resetting your biological clock. Once at your destination, spend as much time as you can outdoors in the daylight. This will help your body recognize the new day-night cycle and adjust accordingly.

If you’ve travelled east and need to advance your internal clock, seek morning light and avoid late afternoon light. If you’ve travelled west and need to delay your body clock, the opposite should apply: seek light in the late afternoon and avoid early morning light.

6) Take Melatonin Supplements

Melatonin, a hormone naturally produced by the body to regulate your circadian rhythm, is meant to cue you in on the right time to sleep. Its production increases in the evening as it becomes dark, signalling to the body that it’s time to rest, and decreases in the morning with exposure to light.

Research suggests that taking melatonin supplements can help reset your body’s internal clock and thus be an effective tool when managing jet lag. It can be taken in the evening, at bedtime, for a few days after you’ve arrived at your destination. 

Remember that it’s best to consult a doctor before taking melatonin or any other supplements you’re unfamiliar with. This is to avoid unwanted reactions with other medications or to possible underlying health conditions you may have.

There’s no doubt that jet lag can be frustrating when you’re in the throes of it. But it’s possible to segue your body into a reasonable sleeping schedule with the tips listed above. Here’s to smoother travels and less disruptive transitions the next time you jet-set across time zones!

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