Jet lag is caused by a mismatch between a person’s normal daily rhythms and a new time zone. It is a temporary sleep problem that usually occurs when you travel across more than three time zones but can affect anyone who travels across multiple time zones. Jet lag can affect your mood, your ability to concentrate, and your physical and mental performance. Fortunately, you can take steps to minimize the effects of jet lag.
A few days before you travel, you can begin adjusting your body’s natural clock to the time zone at your destination. Depending on where you are traveling you may want to adjust your sleep patterns to get used to the time change:
- If traveling west, go to bed an hour or two later than usual
- If traveling east, go to bed an hour or two earlier than usual.
Consider scheduling travel to arrive at your destination at least 2 days before any important events, to give your body time to adjust.
Stomach aches and other stomach problems are a symptom of jet lag; eating smaller meals just before travel may help. If you struggle with jet lag, talk to your doctor about taking medicine or other sleep aids to help you sleep.
If you are traveling to a time zone that is more than 3 hours different than your normal time zone you should follow the sleep and waking routines of your destination when you arrive. It might help to stay in well-lit areas at your destination during the day. Take any medicine or sleep aids as directed by your healthcare provider to help you sleep at night.
Other steps you can take to help you adjust to the new time and avoid jet lag symptoms:
- Eat small meals to avoid stomach aches or other problems.
- Avoid alcohol as it disrupts sleep.
- Use caffeine and exercise strategically, these may help you stay alert throughout the day, but you should avoid these in the evening.
- Drink plenty of water.
- If you are sleepy during the day, take short naps, no more than 15-20 minutes, to help you feel better during the day, yet still sleep at night.
A combination of these steps will help you overcome jet lag more quickly.