Jet lag can negatively affect both business and personal travel. However, there are a number of things a person can try to reduce the effects of jet lag.
Traveling between time zones may interrupt a person’s circadian rhythm and make it difficult to adjust to the new time zone quickly. A person’s circadian rhythm is an internal clock that regulates biological functions in the body based on sleep and wake cycles.
The symptoms and severity of jet lag often relate to the number of time zones a person passes through. A person may feel wide awake in the middle of the night, have trouble falling asleep, or become very tired in the middle of the afternoon.
However, there are several things a person can do to help get over their jet lag symptoms. The following are some tips that may help.
Both alcohol and caffeine can disrupt sleep patterns and make it hard to fall asleep. A person may wish to avoid both during the hours leading up to when they want to go to bed for the night in the new time zone.
Specifically, the National Sleep Foundation recommend avoiding alcohol and caffeine for around 3–4 hours before bedtime.
If possible, the American Academy of Sleep Medicine suggest slowly adjusting sleeping habits over the course of a few days or weeks before travel. In order to do this, a person would need to either stay up a couple of hours later than usual (when heading west) or go to bed earlier (when heading east).
By slowly adjusting their sleeping schedule before travel, a person can help prevent jet lag.
When traveling between time zones, a person should try to increase the amount of time they spend in the sun when they get to their destination. This can include going outside and opening window shades and blinds.
However, a person should still practice safety while under direct sunlight, such as by applying sunscreen and wearing protective clothing.
Looking at backlit screens — such as tablets, computers, TVs, and phones — can make it difficult to fall asleep at night.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommend avoiding using these devices for 1.5 hours before trying to go to sleep.
Doing so could also help a person get over jet lag faster, allowing them to fall asleep at a suitable time in their new time zone.
The National Sleep Foundation suggest that if a person needs a nap, they should limit it to under 2 hours.
They should try to take this nap in the early afternoon only.
The American Academy of Sleep Medicine recommend melatonin supplementation to help a person fall asleep in their new time zone. Melatonin is a natural chemical made by a gland in the brain that helps the brain and body relax so a person can sleep.
However, it is important to note that the World Health Organization (WHO) do not recommend taking melatonin supplements. This is because in the United States and some other countries, melatonin is not subject to the same standards of regulation as medications.
Also, the long-term side effects of melatonin are unknown.
A person should only use sleeping pills when they arrive at their destination. They should not take them on the flight, for longer than the duration of the trip, or against medical advice.
A person should follow all instructions if using sleeping pills.
The CDC also recommend avoiding heavy or spicy meals around 2–3 hours before trying to fall asleep.
Instead, a person should choose light meals or snacks if they are hungry, as these are easier to digest and less likely cause a disruption in sleep.
A person should aim to prepare their room for optimum sleep. This can include:
- using a sleep mask to help block out light
- shutting off any screens or lights in the room to help create a dark environment
- setting a cool room temperature
- using ear plugs to help block out noise
Getting some exercise can also help a person adjust to their new time zone. Outdoor exercise can have a dual effect, as it exposes a person to sunlight.
That said, the WHO recommend that people avoid strenuous exercise within 2 hours of trying to get to sleep.
Jet lag occurs commonly when a person travels from one time zone to another.
There are several steps a person can take to minimize the effects of jet lag, including increasing sunlight exposure, adjusting the sleep environment, and potentially using medications or supplements.
Jet lag symptoms should go away within a few days.