July 09, 2019
If you are an avid traveler, you are probably no stranger to the effects of jet lag on your body. When you cross time zones quickly in a plane, your body can sometimes have trouble adjusting to a new sleep-wake cycle.
The Mayo Clinic describes jet lag like this:
Your body has its own internal clock, or circadian rhythms, that signals your body when to stay awake and when to sleep. Jet lag occurs because your body’s clock is still synced to your original time zone, instead of to the time zone where you’ve traveled. The more time zones crossed, the more likely you are to experience jet lag.
The amount of sunlight you are getting can also affect your internal clock. It is your exposure to the sun that lets your pineal gland, a small endocrine gland, know how much of the natural hormone melatonin to release. And for some people, sensitivity to changes in altitudes and cabin pressure even on a shorter flight with no time zone changes can also be a factor.
Symptoms of jet lag include having trouble falling asleep and/or waking up early, tiredness, trouble focusing and concentrating during the day, gastrointestinal issues, extreme mood switches and, in general, feeling rundown.
Luckily, there are things you can do to prevent or at least reduce the symptoms of jet lag. Here are a few tips for before and after your flight: (Sources include the Mayo Clinic, University of Michigan Health, National Sleep Foundation and the National Center for Complementary & Integrative Health.)
• Get enough sleep before your trip so you are not going into it already sleep-deprived.
• Stay properly hydrated before, during and after your flight.
• Pad an extra day to two into your trip so the first few days you can just rest and adjust to the time change.
• Start adjusting your schedule to the new time zone before you even leave home. Depending on the time difference, go to bed a little earlier or stay up a little later a few days before your trip so your body can acclimate a little more gradually.
• Take a melatonin dietary supplement or sleeping pills to help fall asleep easier at the new bedtime.
Keep in mind that the older we get, the harder it can be to bounce back from a bout of jet lag, especially if you are over 50 years old. If your symptoms don’t get better in about four days, then make an appointment to see your doctor.