Ah, desynchronosis. More commonly known as jet lag, this temporary, yet disorienting, disorder affects hundreds of thousands of people each year as they travel overseas into brand new time zones, causing fatigue, headaches, indigestion and difficulty concentrating. Your body can take several days to adjust to a new time zone, meaning that there will be several days that you are left unable to fully enjoy your vacation. Depending on how long you stay at your vacation destination, you might finally adjust only to have to hop on the plane and go home. Rather than muddle through your trip tired and unaware, here are some things you can do to beat jet lag.
Several days before you are scheduled to leave, gradually adjust your sleep schedule to mimic that of your destination. Traveling to Europe, for example, you will be going ahead in hours, so try going to bed a little bit earlier every day. While it may be impossible for you to go to bed six hours early in preparation for your travels, at least getting yourself adjusted by a couple of hours can help ease your sleeping schedule when you arrive.
2. Light Control
While you can’t control the actual light outside, you can control your exposure to it. If you are traveling east, expose yourself to the natural, early morning light. Later in the evening, stay indoors and lower your ambient lighting. Your body’s internal clock responds to light, so naturally, dimmer lighting will tell your body that it’s time to wind down.
3. Set Your Clock Before You Land
As soon as you board your flight, change your watch to match the time of your destination. This will help mentally prepare you throughout your flight. You can also try to set your internal clock as well. If it is night currently where you’re going, try to catch some sleep. If you are easily distracted by lights and sounds, pack an eye mask and some noise canceling headphones.
4. Stay Active During the Day
When you land, try to stay outside in the sunlight as much as you can. Go for walks in the fresh air. Take in some sights. If you really need to, take a short nap. Make sure to set an alarm though. Even if you only intend to take a thirty minute nap, it could turn into several hours, thus impeding your effort to adjust.
5. Mindful Eating
Indigestion is a common symptom of jet lag. In order to avoid this, eat light meals at your destination’s normal meal times. Heavy meals only leave you feeling tired and can often cause digestive upset. Avoid alcohol and caffeine in the late afternoon as well, as these can interfere with sleep.
6. Avoid Bedtime Distractions
If you’re going ahead in time zones, your body might still think it’s only four in the afternoon when it’s actually ten where you are, especially when you first arrive. To help yourself get to sleep, avoid all lighting distractions. Keep your television off. Cover up the brightly lit numbers on the hotel clock. Cover your cell phone and turn it to silent. This will help your body to adjust to its new settings.
Traveling to a new country should be fun; you shouldn’t spend your days dealing with jet lag. By following these very simple steps, you’re well on your way to being able to fully enjoy your holiday.