Traveling abroad gives you the chance to interact with new cultures and experience breathtaking sights. It’s an exciting opportunity to step outside of your comfort zone and normal routine, but it has one major drawback: jet lag.
When you travel across two or more time zones, it interrupts your circadian rhythms (your body’s natural sleep cycle). When you’re abroad, you start sleeping and waking at times that are out of sync with your home routine. Over the course of your trip, you get used to this new sleep schedule, so it’s a shock to your system when you travel home and have to adjust back to your original time zone. The symptoms of jet lag include trouble sleeping, daytime grogginess, compromised mental focus and physical performance, and even nausea in some cases.
The good news is that jet lag is temporary. The bad news is that the symptoms can last up to ten days, depending on the length of your trip and the number of time zones you travel across. There’s no way to avoid the effects of jet lag entirely, but that doesn’t mean international travel has to leave you feeling fatigued, either. Use these tips to prevent jet lag before your trip and recover from it after.
Prepare Yourself in Advance
Jet lag can happen at the start of your trip too, and who wants to be tired on vacation? If you’re traveling east, start going to bed a half-hour earlier each night for several nights before your flight. If you’re traveling west, go to sleep a half-hour later. Adapt your eating schedule as well so that your body gets used to the daily routine in your destination.
Get Ready on the Flight
If you wear a watch, adjust it to the new time zone before your flight lands. Simply being able to reference the time where you’re going helps you start to adapt before you get there. You should also sleep or stay awake on the plane based on what’s happening at your destination. If possible, arrive earlier than you absolutely need to so you have some time to acclimate, before a business meeting or professional conference for example.
Dehydration can make it harder to fall asleep and stay asleep. It can also compound the fatigued feelings associated with jet lag. Travelers often don’t get enough water, so it’s important to consciously drink a lot of it before, during, and after your flight. You should also avoid alcohol and caffeine for at least several hours before you plan to sleep because both can make you restless and cause dehydration.
Take a Supplement
Our bodies rely on a hormone called melatonin to fall asleep and stay asleep. The jury is still out about whether melatonin supplements improve sleep and help with jet lag, but they haven’t been associated with any harmful side effects. If you’re particularly susceptible to jet lag or sensitive about your sleep, melatonin supplements could help you regulate your rest in an unfamiliar environment. Be sure to try a supplement before your trip to see how it affects your sleep.
Bathe Before Bed
If you’re struggling to get to sleep in your new destination, try taking a hot bath or shower. The warm water soothes your muscles and helps you relax after the stress of a long flight. This tip is especially helpful if you usually bathe before bed because it signals to your body that you’re ready to rest.
Recreate Your Routine
Similar to the previous point, the more you try to recreate your home sleep routine in your new destination, the easier you’ll doze off when you need to. If you use a sleeping mask, a white noise generator, or a special pillow, bring them with you if possible. The atmosphere inside your bedroom is also important. Try to make the room dark, quiet, and cool – free of any distractions or discomforts that could make it harder to sleep.
It’s always tempting to indulge a little on vacation, but foods that are high in fat and carbs can make you feel groggy during the day and restless at night. Try to eat healthy around your travel days and seek out the local delicacies during the middle of your trip.
For some people, the anxiety over getting jet lag is worse than the jet lag itself, which only makes it worse. Many people experience minimal jet lag when they travel internationally and overcome the symptoms without much effort. You’re not guaranteed to get it, and it’s unlikely to ruin your trip if you do. Instead of focusing too much on when, where, why, and how you’re sleeping, prepare for all aspects of your trip, and be sure to enjoy every minute you spend abroad.
The experts at Sit ‘n Sleep are committed to helping you rest peacefully at home and on the other side of the world. Take advantage of all that we offer by visiting one of our 38 locations in Southern California, browsing our website, or contacting us at 800-908-0354.