Jet lag is a phenomenon that occurs when traveling east and west through time zone changes. 1 The effect causes individuals to lose sleep because of change in time schedule and sleep patterns. Jet lag only occurs when traveling east and west because when traveling north and south there are no time zone changes.
Effects of Jet Lag
Symptoms of jet lag can include confusion, daytime drowsiness, lack of alertness and trouble sleeping. Those who are extroverted, not easily stressed, exercise regularly and have a set day to day routine will likely suffer less from jet lag. 2 Traveling to a place multiple time zones away is hard on both the body and the mind, which is why being prepared for such strenuous travel is the best way to combat negative reaction.
Combating Jet Lag
Jet lag can possibly be avoided by taking simple steps to help you body and mind adjust to the new time zone:
- Choose a flight that allows you to arrive in the early evening, and then go to bed around 10 p.m. This will help your body adjust to the new because you will most likely be tired from traveling as is and staying up for a short period of time should not be too difficult. 1
- Plan to sit on the side of the plane opposite of the sun while you will be traveling.
- Drink plenty of water to combat the tendency to become dehydrated due to the dryness of the cabin. 2
- Practice stretching and walking around to increase circulation on long flights.
- Bring earplugs or headphones to help block out noises and light that may disrupt adjusting to your destination’s time zone. You may also want to forgo the on-flight meal as it may fall at a strange time in your destination. 2
- Be sure to ask for or bring your own pillow for the plane and hotel that may offer the comfort of home and aid in the adjustment process.
- Prepare for jet lag. Five days before you leave, begin to preset your biological clock for your destination: if traveling east, go to bed and wake up earlier each day; if traveling west, go to bed and wake up later each day. 2
- Change your watch to the time at your destination as soon as you get on your flight.
- Upon arriving at your hotel set the thermostat at 65 degrees Fahrenheit and request to have a room on a high floor on the street side of the building away from the ice machine, elevators and staircase. 2
- On your first day in your new location, you should avoid napping and push through the day. Go to bed early that night to ensure you get a full night’s sleep.
- Do not stay indoors your first day in your new location. Daylight can help to regulate your biological clock and aid in your adjusting to the new environment. 1
Coping with Jet Lag
Taking sleeping pills or melatonin supplements can help with irregularities in sleep routine by helping you to be forcefully adjusted to your destination’s time zone. This method is proven effective, but can come with side effects of using drugs to induce sleep.
Jet lag is an uncomfortable, but manageable when the proper preparation is taken. By focusing on the concept that sleep is the most important thing and not pushing your body and mind to adjust you can rest easy and make the most of your trip.
1. National Sleep Foundation—Jet Lag and Sleep; http://www.sleepfoundation.org/article/sleep-topics/jet-lag-and-sleep
2. Maas, Dr. James B., Megan L. Wherry, David J Axelrod, Barbara R. Hogan, and Jennifer A. Blumin. Power Sleep: The Revolutionary Program That Prepares Your Mind for Peak Performance. New York : Villard, 1998. 151