Advice on Dealing with Jet Lag

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Day and night are an inextricable part of human life, and our bodies function according to the circadian rhythms that follow the sunrise and sunset every day. Unfortunately, our modern methods of travel allow us to go much faster than our internal clocks, and the resulting sleep disorder, commonly called “jet lag,” can ruin a vacation without proper preparation. In order to avoid the sleepless nights and exhausting days that jet lag can cause, follow these tips to trick and cajole the body into its new time zone.

Before you start your trip, consider adjusting your schedule for several nights before it begins. If you’re headed westward, stay up an extra hour every night before your flight. Eastward travelers should go to bed earlier in one-hour increments. However, avoid any dramatic changes to your sleeping habits. Staying up all night before your trip in order to “reset your clock” will almost always end in disaster. Consider packing your own pillow, noise-canceling headphones, and a comfortable sleep mask, as these may prove invaluable in getting you back on schedule. Likewise, think about scheduling flights for an overnight journey so that when you arrive at your destination, it will be a new morning in a new time zone, which is perfect for getting started. Business travelers should almost always consider arriving a day early for any meeting abroad, as the sleepiness associated with jet lag is not particularly conducive to productive business.

On the journey itself, avoid alcohol and drink plenty of water, as dehydration often exacerbates the symptoms of jet lag. Some people will benefit from melatonin or prescription sleeping aids, but always be sure to try these ahead of time, as no one wants their first day of vacation to be lost in a post-sedative haze. You should discuss your plans with your doctor to learn the optimal strategy for promoting a healthy sleep schedule. Once you land, immediately begin working to establish a new schedule. If you arrive in the morning, stay up all day and go to bed at night. Exercise will definitely help, as will eating breakfast, lunch, and dinner at the appropriate local time.

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