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Getting Over Jet Lag

Doctorpedia Editorial Team Doctorpedia Editorial Team July 15, 2021
Medically reviewed by Susan Kerrigan, MD and Marianne Madsen

Air travel is only getting more popular–planes are getting more comfortable, more destinations are available, and fares even take the occasional dip. Business and leisure trips alike benefit from these many advancements, but the savvy traveller knows that there will still be problems along the way; airport screening, customs, lost luggage, and, of course, jet lag. 

 

What Causes Jet Lag?

 

Jet lag happens when one moves across the world through day or night too quickly for one’s body to adjust to the idea that it is not the same time anymore. Humans have an internal clock that makes us feel tired or awake, and that clock grows accustomed to one time zone. In the past, travel was slow enough that one couldn’t change time zones fast enough to feel a difference, but now, a person can feel like it’s noon when they are at a place where twilight will fall in just an hour or two. That person can become jet lagged, with the body thinking that it still has six hours left until sunset and then demanding to sleep at an inconvenient time. 

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Alcohol and Sleep

What Can Be Done About It? 

 

The best thing to do is try to catch a flight that will make only a minimal impact on your sleep schedule. Try to choose a flight that takes place mostly during the day, arriving in early evening; once you’ve arrived, go to bed when it’s time to sleep at your destination. On the flip side, if you arrive at your destination during the day, try to stay awake until it’s bedtime there.

 

Schedule meals at the correct times for your destination–eating and digesting are strong regulating influences on your biological clock. Remember to stay properly hydrated on your flight–your sleep schedule is only one of the things that dehydration can upset. 

 

Certain foods and drinks are known to be detrimental to your body clock correcting to your new time zone. Of particular note are alcohol and caffeine, both of which seriously impair your body’s sense of time and ability to regulate your sleep schedule. 

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Many flights distribute sleep aids, such as pillows, blankets, eye masks, and earplugs to passengers and will dim the lights for a large portion of the flight. Take advantage of these aids during night-time flights to help you sleep during the flight and land well rested in the morning. If you are flying by day, make sure to stand up and move around to keep yourself on a daytime schedule until it is time to sleep at your destination. 

 

Another recommendation is to take melatonin during the evening when you arrive at your destination for the first few nights. This hormone helps your body manage its sleep cycle, and taking it during the evening may help you adjust your sleep schedule to your destination.

 

Another tip is to make sure your body is exposed to the different types of light at your destination. For example, make sure you get exposure to bright daylight in the morning, and watch the sunset. This can give your body cues as to when it’s time to wake and time to sleep.



Conclusion

 

Don’t let jet lag stop you from seeing the world. These simple tips can help you to enjoy your trip without losing too much sleep over it. 

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