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How to Avoid Jet Lag

Posted On December 22, 2013
December 22, 2013

It is slated to be the trip of a lifetime! Years of saving and planning for a whirlwind two weeks spent in Berlin and the surrounding countryside of Germany. You want nothing to stand in your way of enjoying each and every moment. For sure, you don’t want to put your head down on a feather pillow when you could be visiting the Brandenburg Gate or eating schnitzel with a beer stein of lager on the side. So on your agenda is to follow the top tips to avoid and beat jet lag.

When flying from the United State to Europe or crossing multiple time zones, your body and biorhythms become confused as you inevitably reset the time on your watch to match your destination. This is the classic definition of jet lag, which occurs because your body is trying to catch up with your destination’s time when your inner time clock doesn’t have the ability to speed ahead that fast.

Researchers have discovered that journeying from west to east is more difficult because we have a greater than 24-hour body cycle. Therefore, it is more difficult for you to fly to an earlier time zone. If you travel from east to west, it is far easier for your body to stay up later and thus, the time in which to get acclimated and recover from jet lag is 30 to 50% less.

Can you avoid jet lag or is it an inevitable occurrence? Truth is you cannot totally avoid jet lag but there are definitely tips that can be followed to minimize the symptoms, which can make you fatigued, irritable, dizzy, weak and ill.

Get a good night sleep. This tip should actually be something that you follow as a regular habit, and not just before you travel. You can ensure that you leave home well-rested by minimizing your stress before you even step on a plane. Many seasoned travelers follow the golden rule of pretending that they are scheduled to travel 2 days earlier than the actual date. This way your suitcase is packed well in advance and you can breathe easy and not rush around the night before you fly. The 48-hour cushion will allow you to start your trip with peace of mind and rest. Another trick—with 3 days to go until you leave—would be to start going to sleep an hour or two before your normal bedtime.

Nap on the flight. If you can manage a couple of hours of sleep on your flight across multiple time zones, the rest will allow you to enjoy the first day at your final destination. And before you even dose off—or better still as soon as you get on the plane—set your watch to the new time.

Bottoms up with water. Before, during and after your flight, drink plenty of water to keep well hydrated. Avoid alcohol and heavy meals.

Fooling your body with light. Once you arrive, try to stay awake and take a walk in the sunlight. Rays from the sun have been shown to be a powerful stimulant for getting your biological clock back in sync and light exercise will weaken the clutches of jet lag. But make sure to go to sleep at an early local bedtime. The only downside would be that you awaken earlier than normal on your first morning overseas.

Final tip on the list would be to take medication as a last resort, especially if your trip is more business than pleasure. In a 2010 study published in Mayo Clinic Proceedings, researchers evaluated whether or not the drug, Nuvigil, could decrease sleepiness as a post-arrival jet-lag symptom when participants travelled eastbound across six time zones. The group discovered that the drug could help keep people awake and lessen their perception of jet-lag sleepiness. On the flip side, research was also conducted to find out whether or not Ambien helped reduce sleep disturbances in people who travelled across multiple time zones. Appearing in Sleep Medicine, the results demonstrated that a 10mg dose of the slumber aid significantly improved sleep in seasoned travelers following rapid transatlantic travel. If prescription medication is not your cup of time, an alternative would be melatonin. Widely studied for its use in combating jet lag, this hormone is produced by the body and helps to trigger sleep. Melatonin can be taken as a 3mg dose when travelling east about 2 hours before bed and a smaller amount, 0.5mg, when heading out west.

At Sleep Apnea Treatment Centers of America (SATCOA), we are here to help you find solutions to your sleep problems. And if you or a loved one has obstructive sleep apnea, find out what your treatment options might be by contacting one of our medical concierges today at 1-855-863-4537 to schedule a free consultation.

About Phoebe Ochman

Phoebe Ochman, Director of Communications for Sleep Apnea Treatment Centers of America, manages all content and communications for the company.
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