How to Get Over Jet Lag: 9 Tips for Long Fights
Flying across time zones puts our internal circadian rhythm, or sleep/wake cycle, out of sync with our external environment. Eventually, our natural cycles will adjust, but it takes time.
While our bodies try to adapt to the new schedule, we may suffer from:
- Sleep problems: fatigue, insomnia, or nighttime awakenings
- Upset stomach
- Impaired judgment or difficulty concentrating
But what exactly causes jet lag? Several factors that make jet lag more likely include:
- Flying east (shortening the day is harder on your system than lengthening the day)
- The number of time zones you cross
- Low flexibility in your personal circadian rhythm (especially as you age)
Before Your Flight, You Should…
1. Keep Your Local Time
On short trips (one to two days), keep your local time. This means waking up and going to bed, eating, and working at the same time you would at home.
Also, stay out of the sun during hours you would not be in the sun at home. This may put a crimp in your socializing but can make a big difference if you stick to it.
2. Switch Early
On longer trips, make the switch early. A few days before your trip you can slowly begin to move your time closer to your destination time.
Each day and night make wake up and bedtime an hour later or earlier depending on which way you are traveling. Also, shift mealtimes and other activities closer to destination time.
3. Be Careful Sleeping on a Plane
Only sleep on the plane if it is appropriate to the schedule you are maintaining. If it is a red-eye flight sleep is very important, if not, you should try to keep yourself occupied with other activities.
4. Stay Hydrated
Drink plenty of water to stay hydrated. Drink water before boarding the plane and refill it for the flight. Having to get up to use the restroom will also help you stretch your muscles.
5. Pack Your Sleeping Gear
Let’s face it, sleeping in a new environment isn’t easy. You may want to pack a sleep mask and earplugs to help facilitate a dark, quiet place for sleep.
Once You’ve Arrived at Your Destination, You Should…
6. Switch to the New Time Zone ASAP
When you arrive, if you have not yet changed to your destination time, switch over fast. Follow the schedule of the new time zone for bedtime and wake up time.
Unfortunately, this means you might be staying up and waking up later or going to bed and getting up earlier. Trust me, it’s worth it!
7. Nap if Necessary
If you are excessively tired during the day, take a short 20-30 minute nap in the early afternoon. Longer naps in the evening just make it harder to fall asleep that night.
8. Get Outdoors
Spend time outdoors. If you have to wake up earlier than usual, the early morning sun will help to keep you alert. If you have to stay up later than usual, the late-afternoon sun will keep you going.
9. Say No to Caffeine and Alcohol
Avoid caffeine and alcohol that will disrupt sleep. Also, avoid heavy, spicy meals before bedtime that may keep you up at night.