5 Ways to Combat Holiday Travel Jet Lag


Jet lagThe holiday season brings with it a lot of travel, whether you’re visiting loved ones or simply taking a vacation. Flying across two or more time zones can only mean one thing: jet lag.

If you’ve experienced jet lag before, you know the feeling of not quite fully functioning when get to your destination. Jet lag can leave you experiencing disturbed sleep, daytime fatigue, difficulty concentrating and functioning, and even stomach issues. And the more time zones you cross, the more likely you are to be sleepy and sluggish — and the longer and more intense the symptoms can be.

Jet lag occurs when travel throws off your circadian rhythm – your biological clock. It plays a role in controlling when you wake and fall asleep. Your exposure to light, when you eat, your social engagement and more all regulate your circadian rhythm. But when you cross several time zones, it disrupts all of those factors, desynchronizing your internal clock.

If you’re traveling for the holidays, you may only have a few days in your destination. You don’t want the effects of jet lag putting a damper on your holiday celebrations. Here are five ways to combat jet lag.

  1. Simulate your new schedule before your trip
    If you’re flying east, try going to bed earlier – move it up a half hour earlier each night for a few nights before you leave. Do the opposite if you’re traveling west. You can also move your mealtimes close to the time you expect to have them in your holiday destination time zone.
  2. Carefully choose your flight times
    If possible, select a flight that allows you to arrive in the early evening and stay awake until 10 p.m. in your destination’s time zone.
  3. Adjust to your new schedule on the plane
    When you take your seat on the plane, change the time on your watch and phone to the time zone you’re traveling to – this can help you get in the mindset of the time it’ll be in your destination. Then, try to sleep on your flight if it’s nighttime in your destination or, conversely, try staying awake if it’s daytime there. If you need to sleep on the plane, bring earplugs and blindfolds to help block out noise and light while sleeping.
  4. Try taking melatonin
    Some studies have found taking over-the-counter melatonin can help you adjust to your new time zone faster. Your brain naturally releases melatonin – when your body produces melatonin, it helps you fall asleep. When your body stops producing melatonin, you begin to wake. While you can buy melatonin over the counter, it’s not regulated by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA), so talk to your doctor first before taking it. If your doctor gives you the ok to use melatonin, take a small dose at the local bedtime each night until your internal clock catches up.
  5. Stay hydrated
    In order to avoid dehydration, drink plenty of water before, during and after your flight. You should try to avoid drinking alcohol or caffeine several hours before you plan to sleep – they both act as stimulants and can disrupt your sleep. They can also dehydrate you.If you’re only going on a short trip and you’re not traveling over more than three time zones, you may not want to try adjusting your biological clock at all. For instance, if you’re traveling for three days or less, it’s barely enough time for you to adjust before you head back home and have to re-adjust to your “normal” schedule.

Photo from The Sunday Times.


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