Sleep Better When Switching Time Zones

We live in a time when jumping on a plane is easier and cheaper than ever before. Whether it is a long anticipated vacation or a last minute business trip across the country, air travel has become an increasingly essential part of our lives. Yet, with all this freedom we encounter one of traveling’s unfortunate side effects: jet lag.

Jet lag occurs when we cross time zones and our internal clock gets thrown off its normal cycle, making it more difficult to adjust to the new local time. Not only does crossing multiple time zones increase jet lag, but traveling from west to east can cause a greater disturbance to your sleep. Luckily the National Sleep Foundation has provided four helpful tips to help you fight jet lag.

Adjust your sleep schedule ahead of time. For three to five days before your trip, shift your bedtime and awakening time either earlier or later each day to help your body’s internal clock move closer to your destination’s time zone by your day of arrival. Making this change can help prevent or minimize jet lag.

Expose yourself to light strategically. If it’s daylight when you arrive at your destination, take a brisk walk outdoors to shift your body clock to the new time zone. Do your best to avoid taking a nap (or at lease limit it to 20 minutes). During your first few days there, try to get 15 to 30 minutes of direct sunlight exposure right after you wake up in the morning.

Downshift in the evenings. If it’s nighttime when you arrive, dim your lights, eat lightly, and engage in relaxing activities to set the stage for a good night’s sleep. Bring an eye mask and earplugs in case you need them to create the right mood to snooze.

Consider taking melatonin. Taking melatonin, a natural sleep aid, a few hours before your desired bedtime may help sync your body’s circadian rhythm to the new time zone. It can be especially helpful for adults who are crossing five or more time zones because it can help put you in the mood to snooze – at the right time. But always speak with your doctor before trying any supplement or drug.

To get a more in depth look at how jet lag impacts your sleep, click here for the National Sleep Foundation’s article on Jet Lag & Sleep.

We’re officially halfway through Sleep Awareness Week, have you noticed any change with your sleep so far? Keep checking back for ways to Sleep Better, Feel Better.