If travelers could do away with just one problem when they travel, it would be jet lag. This disruption to the body’s natural rhythm and sleep patterns is caused by traveling across time zones. It may last several days, but there are steps you can take to reduce its severity or prevent it altogether.
If you know how many time zones you’ll cross, you can work with your body to get used to the new rhythm. For example, if you’ll be moving 4 hours ahead, try going to bed later and getting up earlier a few weeks before you leave. This will minimize the jet lag recovery time when you arrive at your destination. Even if you shift your internal clock by only a couple of hours, it will help.
Dehydration exaggerates the symptoms of jet lag, including fatigue and headaches. Be sure to drink plenty of water in the days leading up to and throughout your trip, especially on the plane. Drinking water is best, as alcohol and caffeine not only dehydrate you but also increase jet lag symptoms.
Take short naps.
When you feel the need to sleep, do it—but don’t nap past sunset or nap longer than an hour or two. Sleeping helps the symptoms of jet lag, but sleeping too much or napping too late doesn’t help you reset your internal clock. In fact, too many naps can actually worsen jet lag, as your body becomes confused about when to sleep and when to wake.
Heavy meals can make you tired or moody, so if you eat during the flight, do so in moderation. An animal study done in 2008 found that a 16-hour fast helped to reset the body’s clock. If you cannot or don’t wish to fast that long, eating small amounts of food can be helpful.
Adapt to the new time zone as quickly as possible.
Think about your destination and plan accordingly. If you arrive in the evening, don’t sleep on the plane, and after you land, eat dinner and find something relaxing to do for a few hours before bed. When you rise the next day, eat breakfast and make plans for a full day’s worth of fun. Your body will adjust; it will just take a little time.
Be kind to yourself, but put your schedule on local time as soon as you can. You’ll soon find that you’re enjoying yourself so much that you don’t have time for jet lag.
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