8 Tips for Easing the Effects of Jetlag
Most citizens of the world are infinitely familiar with that ever-present traveler’s companion, jetlag. You know the feeling: chronic exhaustion, headache, drowsiness, disorientation, insomnia … the list goes on. But while there’s no steadfast cure for jetlag—a temporary disruption to our circadian rhythms measured by the plasma levels of certain hormones, changes in body temperature, and more—there are some things you can do to lessen its effects and adjust your internal clock. Meaning you’ll be on your way to enjoying that Himalayan hike or epic safari game drive that much sooner.
- Prep before you go.
According to the National Sleep Foundation, (http://sleepfoundation.org/sleep-topics/jet-lag-and-sleep), you can start to prepare your internal clock before you even leave home. If you’re headed East, get up and go to bed earlier for several days prior to your trip; if you’re headed West, get up and go to bed later.
- Get moving!
Use the flight to your advantage and stay active while you’re in the air, standing up and walking around the cabin when it’s safe to do so says Web MD (http://www.webmd.com/sleep-disorders/excessive-sleepiness-10/jet-lag-remedies?page=2). You can do static exercises or stretching, but avoid too much activity before bedtime after you land, which can make it difficult to sleep.
- Nap smarter.
Try to stay up until at least 10 p.m. local time at your new destination. If you must snooze, take a short nap in the early afternoon of no more than two hours at a time, and set an alarm so you don’t oversleep. (http://sleepfoundation.org/sleep-topics/jet-lag-and-sleep)
- Embrace the sun.
Taking in some sun on a walk (or even sitting near a bright light, if it’s cloudy) early in the day when you arrive can help you adjust to the local time more quickly says Health.com (http://www.health.com/health/gallery/0,,20322187_6,00.html)
- Be a buzz kill.
Drink plenty of water to stay hydrated and forego stimulants such as alcohol or caffeine 3-4 hours before you plan to sleep, either in the air or at your new destination. Once you land, skip heavy meals in favor of snacks (but alas, you should probably pass on the chocolate snacks as well). (http://sleepfoundation.org/sleep-topics/jet-lag-and-sleep/page/0/1)
- Consider melatonin.
Health.com reports that in some studies, melatonin—a natural hormone sold as a supplement at most health food stores—has been shown to stave off jet lag by helping to regulate the body’s sleep/wake cycle when taken after dark on the day that you travel. Consult your doctor before adding it to your travel regimen, though, as melatonin can interact with other medications. (http://www.health.com/health/gallery/0,,20322187_2,00.html)
- Take a bath.
One strategy for helping you sleep in a new country? Try a hot bath before bedtime to help you relax and unwind; the drop in body temperature when you get out of the tub can even help you to fall asleep faster. (http://www.webmd.com/sleep-disorders/excessive-sleepiness-10/jet-lag-remedies?page=3)
- Block it out.
Embrace sleep accessories like earplugs and eye masks to help block out noise and unwanted light while you sleep, both on the plane and after you land. A favorite pillow or blanket from home can also help to ease the feeling of being in a new environment, and don’t be afraid to request two wake up calls from the front desk—just in case you miss the first one. (http://sleepfoundation.org/sleep-topics/jet-lag-and-sleep/page/0/1)