Jet lag is a temporary sleep disorder that afflicts many international travelers. The problem happens when your body’s internal clock, which commands your body on when to sleep and wake up, is out of sync with the time zone you are in. You can end up feeling foggy, restless, fatigued, or moody, and you can even end up struggling with gastrointestinal issues. To help you ward off the side effects of jet lag (and get the most out of your trip) we’ve compiled the best practices to prevent jet lag on your next vacation.
Stay Healthy and Hydrated
Keep your body as healthy as possible to prevent it from getting exasperated by any triggers. Drink at least eight ounces of water every hour, and avoid alcohol and caffeine whilst flying to avoid dehydration.
Jet lag tends to have stronger effects on those who are already sick, stressed, and sleep-deprived, so give yourself a stronger chance of avoiding it by giving your body a strong starting point.
Soak in the Sun
If you’ve just hopped off a red-eye and your first impulse is to sleep, take a walk first. Sunlight is one of the main factors affecting your body’s internal clock, and it can actually work to reset it. To adjust to a new time zone, take a 30-minute walk in the sun to rewire your system, and avoid taking naps afterward. If you must nap, don’t sleep for longer than an hour.
Adjust Your Sleep Schedule Beforehand
Experts recommend you adjust your sleep schedule by one hour every day before your travel. If you’re traveling east, sleep one hour earlier than you usually would. If you’re traveling west, one hour later. You can try taking melatonin to help you sleep earlier.
Monitor Light Exposure
Since light plays such an important part in our circadian rhythms, you can modulate the amount of light you see in the days before your trip. If you’re traveling west, avoid bright light in the morning by wearing sunglasses and keeping your blinds down. If you’re traveling to the east, expose yourself to tons of light during the day to adjust to an earlier time zone.
Shift Your Habits on the Plane
If it’s nighttime at your new destination on the plane, try to sleep then. Eye masks and earplugs will come in handy if the sun is peeking in, but we don’t recommend sleeping pills for this feat – they might make you groggier and more prone to jet lag later on. Book a window seat so you can easily sleep on the window without being woken up by other passengers who need to get up.
Arrive a Day Beforehand
If you have a wedding, a work event, or another important event, it might be smart to book your drop a day or two before the event so you give your body time to adjust. No one wants to be tired and irritable for a special occasion, especially if they’ve flown eight hours to be there.
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