In a season of travel, even the healthiest practices can be derailed by the experience of jet lag. When traveling between time zones, our bodies become out of balance and expect a different sleep schedule than we usually get. Rather than relying on intense sleep aids with unfamiliar ingredients, or an oversupply of caffeine, consider these remedies that can help you get back into your daily routine quickly and confidently.
Eat and Sleep At the Right Time on the Plane
While you are on a long plane trip, consider not the time when you took off but what time it will be where you are landing. Then, try to hold meals and naps to times that would make sense in your destination: even just eating a little later or sleeping a little earlier can help once you arrive and are already a little closer to the target time schedule.
Drink Plenty of Water, While Cutting Alcohol and Caffeine
Though caffeine and alcohol can seem like ways to slow yourself down or speed yourself up to get into the new time zone's schedule, they actually have lingering effects that do much more harm than good. If it is possible to avoid caffeine while jet lagged, it is a great idea to do so, since it may wake you up now but then have persistent effects on your body. There is some evidence that caffeine can "wind back your clock"
a bit, but it depends on the direction you are traveling. Only westward travelers stand to benefit from a well-timed double of espresso.
Alcohol does make people drowsy, but usually people sleep worse after alcohol, receiving less rest even if they manage to doze. Alcohol and caffeine also both dehydrate you, and while dehydration isn't a direct result of jet lag, the symptoms of jet lag don't go well with a headache and muscle fatigue. Getting enough water is helpful for making your body as comfortable and healthy as possible, and a cold gulp of water can also be refreshing if you are feeling exhausted.
Spend Time in the Sun
Now that you are home, adjusting your body's circadian rhythm is important; to do so, consider some serious sun time
. Our bodies adjust faster when they get a substantial amount of natural light to "realize" what time of day it is.
Get At Least 4 Hours of Sleep in Your New Location's "Night"
If you know that sleep will be hard for the first night or two, don't pressure yourself to get all your sleep at night, but instead try to get your "anchor sleep"
of at least 4 hours during night time. To make sure this happens, it can be good to avoid using electronics with bright displays after dark, and to start slowing down your activities even if you don't feel tired yet. Aim to get those 4 hours at whatever part of night time works best for you, because having that big block of time asleep will start your body on the path toward future nights of full sleep.
Avoid Supplements Unless Well Researched
People who have been given all natural supplements like melatonin often say they help with jet lag, but it is important to take them at times when research says they can aid your sleep
. Getting sun, going for brisk walks while traveling, and staying hydrated are often the best ways to recover from jet lag, so unless you've had extensive jet lag even with the non-supplement methods of combating it, you may want to avoid taking a supplement.
For Next Time: Start Shifting Schedules Ahead of Time
If you have shifted once and are now facing more jet lag on your way home, consider slowly moving your schedule in the 2-3 days before travel. Aim to go to bed an hour earlier or later each night so that you can reduce the amount of time zones that your circadian rhythms must adjust to all at once.
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