Coping With Jet Lag

Reviewed May 4, 2016

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Summary

Some adjustments before, during, and after arrival at your destination can help minimize some of the side effects of jet lag.

Every day, millions of travelers struggle against one of the most common sleep disorders—jet lag. For years, jet lag was considered merely a state of mind. Now, studies have shown that the condition results from an imbalance in the body's natural biological clock caused by traveling to different time zones.

Bodies work on a 24-hour cycle called circadian rhythms. These rhythms are measured by the distinct rise and fall of body temperature, blood levels of certain hormones and other biological conditions. All of these are influenced by our exposure to sunlight and help determine when we sleep and when we wake.

When traveling to a new time zone, circadian rhythms are slow to adjust and remain on their original biological schedule for several days. This results in our bodies telling us it is time to sleep, when it's actually the middle of the afternoon, or it makes us want to stay awake when it is late at night. This experience is known as jet lag.

Minimizing the effects

Some adjustments before, during and after arrival at your destination can help minimize some of the side effects of jet lag:

  • Select a flight that allows early evening arrival and stay up until 10 p.m. local time. If you must sleep during the day, take a short nap in the early afternoon, but no longer than 2 hours. Set an alarm to be sure not to sleep too long.
  • Anticipate the time change for trips by getting up and going to bed earlier several days prior to an eastward trip or later for a westward trip.
  • Upon boarding the plane, change your watch to the destination time zone.
  • Avoid alcohol or caffeine at least 3 to 4 hours before bedtime. Both act as "stimulants" and prevent sleep.
  • Upon arrival at a destination, avoid heavy meals (a snack—but not chocolate—is OK).
  • Avoid heavy exercise close to bedtime. Light exercise earlier in the day is fine.
  • Bring earplugs and blindfolds to help dampen noise and block out unwanted light while sleeping.
  • Try to get outside in the sunlight whenever possible. Daylight is a powerful stimulant for regulating the biological clock.
By Drew Edwards, MS, EdD

Summary

Some adjustments before, during, and after arrival at your destination can help minimize some of the side effects of jet lag.

Every day, millions of travelers struggle against one of the most common sleep disorders—jet lag. For years, jet lag was considered merely a state of mind. Now, studies have shown that the condition results from an imbalance in the body's natural biological clock caused by traveling to different time zones.

Bodies work on a 24-hour cycle called circadian rhythms. These rhythms are measured by the distinct rise and fall of body temperature, blood levels of certain hormones and other biological conditions. All of these are influenced by our exposure to sunlight and help determine when we sleep and when we wake.

When traveling to a new time zone, circadian rhythms are slow to adjust and remain on their original biological schedule for several days. This results in our bodies telling us it is time to sleep, when it's actually the middle of the afternoon, or it makes us want to stay awake when it is late at night. This experience is known as jet lag.

Minimizing the effects

Some adjustments before, during and after arrival at your destination can help minimize some of the side effects of jet lag:

  • Select a flight that allows early evening arrival and stay up until 10 p.m. local time. If you must sleep during the day, take a short nap in the early afternoon, but no longer than 2 hours. Set an alarm to be sure not to sleep too long.
  • Anticipate the time change for trips by getting up and going to bed earlier several days prior to an eastward trip or later for a westward trip.
  • Upon boarding the plane, change your watch to the destination time zone.
  • Avoid alcohol or caffeine at least 3 to 4 hours before bedtime. Both act as "stimulants" and prevent sleep.
  • Upon arrival at a destination, avoid heavy meals (a snack—but not chocolate—is OK).
  • Avoid heavy exercise close to bedtime. Light exercise earlier in the day is fine.
  • Bring earplugs and blindfolds to help dampen noise and block out unwanted light while sleeping.
  • Try to get outside in the sunlight whenever possible. Daylight is a powerful stimulant for regulating the biological clock.
By Drew Edwards, MS, EdD

Summary

Some adjustments before, during, and after arrival at your destination can help minimize some of the side effects of jet lag.

Every day, millions of travelers struggle against one of the most common sleep disorders—jet lag. For years, jet lag was considered merely a state of mind. Now, studies have shown that the condition results from an imbalance in the body's natural biological clock caused by traveling to different time zones.

Bodies work on a 24-hour cycle called circadian rhythms. These rhythms are measured by the distinct rise and fall of body temperature, blood levels of certain hormones and other biological conditions. All of these are influenced by our exposure to sunlight and help determine when we sleep and when we wake.

When traveling to a new time zone, circadian rhythms are slow to adjust and remain on their original biological schedule for several days. This results in our bodies telling us it is time to sleep, when it's actually the middle of the afternoon, or it makes us want to stay awake when it is late at night. This experience is known as jet lag.

Minimizing the effects

Some adjustments before, during and after arrival at your destination can help minimize some of the side effects of jet lag:

  • Select a flight that allows early evening arrival and stay up until 10 p.m. local time. If you must sleep during the day, take a short nap in the early afternoon, but no longer than 2 hours. Set an alarm to be sure not to sleep too long.
  • Anticipate the time change for trips by getting up and going to bed earlier several days prior to an eastward trip or later for a westward trip.
  • Upon boarding the plane, change your watch to the destination time zone.
  • Avoid alcohol or caffeine at least 3 to 4 hours before bedtime. Both act as "stimulants" and prevent sleep.
  • Upon arrival at a destination, avoid heavy meals (a snack—but not chocolate—is OK).
  • Avoid heavy exercise close to bedtime. Light exercise earlier in the day is fine.
  • Bring earplugs and blindfolds to help dampen noise and block out unwanted light while sleeping.
  • Try to get outside in the sunlight whenever possible. Daylight is a powerful stimulant for regulating the biological clock.
By Drew Edwards, MS, EdD

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