Travel can be fun and exciting, but it can also be hard on your body and your sleep patterns, especially if you are crossing time zones. You may not always have time to indulge in a nap once you arrive at your destination. The good news is that with some simple pre-planning, you may be able to minimize jet lag or even avoid it altogether.
Jet lag occurs because our body’s internal clock that governs our sleep and wake cycles (known as our circadian rhythm) gets disrupted when we travel to different time zones. This can cause symptoms of daytime fatigue, difficulty sleeping at night, poor concentration and irritability.
Here are five strategies that I’ve found to be helpful in preventing and managing jet lag:
1. Gradually adjust your sleep patterns. In the days leading up to your trip, adjust the time you go to bed and rise by an hour or so. This can be particularly helpful when you will be traveling to a time zone that is more than four hours different from where you live.
2. Avoid alcohol and over-the-counter (OTC) sleep aids. Alcohol may help you fall asleep, but it can actually cause disrupted sleep and nighttime wakening. OTC sleep aids often contain antihistamines which make you drowsy but they don’t help improve sleep quality. They also cause dry eyes and dry mouth, which can be problematic because airplane air is already dry.
3. For flights longer than eight hours, choose to travel overnight. That way, you can get some sleep on the plane and arrive at your destination feeling rested.
4. Reach for supplemental support. Supplements can help alleviate jet lag and get your sleep cycle back on track. To promote better relaxation both on the plane and at night after you arrive at your destination, take a supplement that contains Suntheanine. This amino acid helps ease stress and improve sleep quality without causing any hangover effects or compromising your ability to think clearly. Suntheanine is available in chewable tablets and capsules, so it’s easy to carry with you. To help reset your internal clock, try supplementing with melatonin. This is a hormone naturally secreted by the brain’s pineal gland in response to darkness.
5. Drink lots of water before, during and after your flight. Dehydration can worsen jet lag, and long flights coupled with breathing dry cabin air can increase the likelihood of dehydration.
The human body wasn’t designed to travel quickly across time zones. Keep in mind that you can’t store up sleep, or make it up after losing it. The best jet lag strategies involve helping your body adjust to the change as gradually as possible.