Overcoming Jet Lag

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what is jet lag

What Is Jet Lag?

Most people have heard the term, but what exactly is “jet lag”? Those who travel frequently or who’ve traveled to other countries across multiple time zones have probably experienced the condition. It’s characterized by poor sleep, trouble concentrating, difficulty completing complex tasks, mood changes, and, in some cases, digestive issues.

Jet lag typically occurs when you fly a distance that takes you two or more time zones away from your point of origin. Doing so disrupts your circadian rhythm, which is the internal clock that helps you know when to sleep and rise. The farther you travel, the more likely you are to experience symptoms and the more pronounced those symptoms are likely to be.

Jet lag is a temporary condition. But, unfortunately, it can take many days to recover from the effects of jet lag, which isn’t ideal, whether you’re traveling for business or pleasure. Fortunately, there are steps you can take to help prevent jet lag and people can also learn how to get over jet lag if it occurs.

Jet Lag Prevention Tips

With proper preparation, you can avoid jet lag or at least minimize its effects. Follow these helpful prevention tips:

Adopt the Daily Routine of Your Destination Before You Leave Home

The direction you’ll be traveling in affects how to avoid jet lag. For example, if you’re traveling west, you should shift your bedtime, wake time and meal times 30 minutes later per day starting several days before you depart. If you’re traveling east, do the opposite, shifting everything earlier by 30 minutes per day.

Continue Your Schedule Shifting Once You’re on Your Flight

Change your watch to the destination time zone as soon as you board. This will help your brain start to adjust. Try to match your sleeping/waking hours with those of your destination.

Build Buffer Time into Your Schedule

If possible, give yourself a few days to acclimate before you attend important meetings or participate in activities where you really want to be mentally present.

Stay Hydrated and Avoid Caffeine and Alcohol

Being dehydrated can intensify jet lag symptoms, so be sure to get plenty of fluids. Also, avoid caffeine and alcohol. While you may think that their effects can help you sync up with your destination time zone, they both can dehydrate you and they also have a negative impact on sleep.

How to Deal with Jet Lag

When you arrive at your destination, here’s how to get over jet lag:

Get into the Local Sleep/Wake Rhythm Immediately

If it’s daytime when you arrive, avoid sleeping even if you’re very tired. If it’s night, go to bed even if you don’t feel particularly sleepy. This is a key tactic in how to deal with jet lag.

Start Eating on the Local Schedule

The time at which you eat meals helps your body reset its circadian rhythm. Adopt the local meal times as soon as you arrive.

Use Light or the Absence of It to Signal Your Body to Adjust

Light and darkness have a strong influence on circadian rhythm and play an important role in how to recover from jet lag. Try to get plenty of morning sunlight and to gradually reduce light exposure (even from artificial sources) as the evening progresses.

How long does it take to get over jet lag? What are the best strategies for getting over jet lag? The more you travel, the better you’ll understand how to beat jet lag and which jet lag remedies work for you.

Learn More About Jet Lag from Baptist Health

Keep learning about jet lag and other sleep-related issues from Baptist Health’s blog.