When traveling to a new time zone, our circadian rhythms are slow to adjust and remain on their original biological schedule for several days. This results in our bodies telling us it is time to sleep, when it’s actually the middle of the afternoon, or it makes us want to stay awake when it is late at night. This experience is known as jet lag.
Some simple behavioral adjustments before, during and after arrival at your destination can help minimise some of the side effects of jet lag.
- Select a flight that allows early evening arrival and stay up until 10 p.m. local time. (If you must sleep during the day, take a short nap in the early afternoon, but no longer than two hours. Set an alarm to be sure not to over sleep.)
- Anticipate the time change for trips by getting up and going to bed earlier several days prior to an eastward trip and later for a westward trip.
- Upon boarding the plane, change your watch to the destination time zone.
- Avoid alcohol or caffeine at least three to four hours before bedtime. Both act as “stimulants” and prevent sleep.
- Upon arrival at a destination, avoid heavy meals (a snack—not chocolate—is okay).
- Avoid napping as soon as you arrive at your destination. Even if you are tired after a long flight, try to stay active until the correct time to sleep; this will help your body adjust more quickly.
- Avoid any heavy exercise close to bedtime. (Light exercise earlier in the day is fine.)
- Bring earplugs and blindfolds to help dampen noise and block out unwanted light while sleeping.
- Try to get outside in the sunlight whenever possible. Daylight is a powerful stimulant for regulating the biological clock. (Staying indoors worsens jet lag.)
- If you take medication at specific times of the day, such as oral contraceptives or insulin, consult your GP or pharmacist before travelling. They will advise you when to take your medication after you arrive at your destination
Source: National Sleep Foundation