Jet lag can happen to anyone, no matter how often you fly. When you travel across a few time zones so quickly, it’s hard for your body’s natural biological rhythms to adjust.
While it can be annoying to deal with, there are a few things you can do to reduce symptoms and get back on track more quickly.
What are symptoms of jet lag?
Jet lag can cause symptoms such as:
- Sleep disturbances (difficulty falling asleep or staying asleep)
- Difficulty concentrating
- Reduced appetite
- Constipation or diarrhea
Generally, symptoms are worse when you fly east instead of west. And the more time zones you cross, the more severe your symptoms will probably be.
While unpleasant, jet lag symptoms are harmless and generally goes away in 3-4 days. Here are 8 tips for getting rid of symptoms faster.
8 tips for getting over jet lag
- Adjust to your new time soon as soon as you can. Adjusting your sleep schedule to your new time zone can help your body adapt more quickly. Set your watches and clocks to your new time zone, and avoid eating, sleeping, or waking up at times based on your old time zone.
- Stay hydrated. Traveling long distances can cause you to become dehydrated, which will only make you feel more fatigued. Drink plenty of water during your flight and after your arrival.
- Get some sunlight. When you travel between time zones, your exposure to sunlight changes. Going outside and spending some time outdoors can help your body produce melatonin, which are hormones that help regulate your sleep-wake cycle, also called circadian rhythms. You can use artificial (blue) lights to help with this if you can't go outdoors.
- Drink some caffeine. In moderation, caffeine can help stay alert during the daytime and fight sleepiness. However, since caffeine can be dehydrating, compensate for this by drinking enough water. Avoid caffeine in the evening.
- Avoid new foods. Eat small, frequent meals and avoid new foods or heavy meals that can cause digestive issues like diarrhea or constipation.
- Avoid alcohol. Alcohol can worsen symptoms like fatigue and drowsiness, so it’s best to avoid it altogether when you’re traveling.
- Try melatonin supplements. You can try taking melatonin supplements or other sleep aids, although you should always consult your doctor beforehand.
- Keep naps short. If you’re extremely sleepy during the day, it’s fine to take naps but keep them short (15 to 20 minutes) so that you don’t have trouble falling asleep later in the evening.
How to prevent jet lag
Preparing yourself a few days before you travel can also help with jet lag. If you are going west, go to bed 1-2 hours later than usual. If you are going east, go to bed 1-2 hours earlier than usual.
If you are traveling for an important or official event, try arriving at your destination at least 2 days before. This may help give your body more time to adjust before the big day.
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Michigan Medicine. Sleep Problems: Dealing With Jet Lag. https://www.uofmhealth.org/health-library/ug4997