If you’ve traveled across two-time zones, there’s one thing you might have experienced: jetlag.
Or you might have even heard your frequent-flying work colleagues talk about how they are not able to get more restful sleep because of jetlag.
On the surface, jetlag might not be so much of a big deal but it does more harm than good.
The World Health Organization describes jetlag as symptoms caused by the disruption of the body’s “internal clock” and the approximate 24-h (circadian) rhythms it controls.
Jet lag is a disorder that occurs to people who travel rapidly across different time zones or when their sleep is disrupted.
Disruption occurs when crossing multiple time zones, that is when flying east to west or west to east.
How does jetlag impact sleep?
People who find themselves shuffling between states, regions, and countries with different time zones all the time often experience this disorder. But at the very core of jetlag is sleep disruption.
And sleep disruption is typical if you work in a job with shifts. take for example the European Union.
One study pointed out that more than 20 percent of the EU’s working population work in shifts. Therefore, a good number in that population is likely to experience jetlag.
All this happens because the body’s internal clock (circadian rhythms) function has been disrupted thereby introducing the disorder.
Insomnia, fatigue, agonizing headaches, mild depression, and others are a few symptoms of jetlag.
Fortunately, some people have their symptoms improving within a few days after arriving at their new destination and adjusting to the time zone. It is important to note that
Jetlag cannot be prevented but its effects can be reduced through certain measures, treatments, and tips.
One research in the Journal of Physiology found that exercising helps to counter the negative effects jetlag comes along with.
To be more specific, exercising at certain times of the day is the hack that helps us beat jetlag and have a more restful sleep.
Melatonin is a hormone produced in the brain that helps sleep to occur. Its production rises in the evenings and falls during the day.
It is important to note that light disrupts its production process, thus, making it hard to fall asleep naturally.
Per the study, exercising at 7 am or between 1 pm and 4 pm moved the body’s circadian rhythm to an earlier time.
Again, exercising between 7 pm and 10 pm moved the circadian rhythm backward.
This is to say that exercising at these times helps with the production of melatonin.
This will further induce sleep more naturally. Bedtime stretches can be helpful in this case.
Shawn Youngstedt, the lead researcher of the study says:
“Exercise has been known to cause changes to our body clock. We were able to clearly show in this study when exercise delays the body clock and when it advances it.”
Note that strenuous exercises two hours before your bedtime might not help you to sleep better at night.
2. Limit light exposure
The exposure of light (bright sunlight) during a journey goes a long way to help adjust our internal clocks as far as sleep is concerned. Blue lights affect sleep.
This is especially true when traveling between different time zones. For this to work well, you just have to be familiar with locations that are East from you and others that are West.
And here’s why: If you find yourself flying westwards, exposure to light in the day is more helpful than experiencing it in the mornings. It is destructive.
You can either wear eyeshades or sunglasses to prevent any disruption.
And if you find yourself traveling eastwards, exposure to light in the morning is highly recommended to exposure in the evenings.
3. Avoid alcohol or caffeine
If you’re like most people, coffee is dear to your heart. It is normal to want to take in coffee or alcohol.
But here’s the kicker if you want to beat jet lag:
Avoid alcohol or coffee three to four hours before bedtime if you want to get a more restful sleep. These beverages disrupt the natural process of sleep. Some may argue that alcohol makes us sleepy.
To some extent, that can be true but they reduce the quality of sleep we want to enjoy, especially when we are fighting jetlag.
Caffeine, on the other hand, helps to keep us active; that is why it is best taken in the mornings for a more energizing day and prevents us from sleeping at all.
4. Pack something familiar
We feel jetlag after our trips. But it’s possible that we can reduce that inevitable fate, during the trip itself.
One way is to get a better night’s sleep during your travel itself. We highly recommend this especially if you’re spending weeks and months away from your home. Here’s the thing:
When we travel, a lot of us are unable to sleep because of the new environment we tend to find ourselves in.
Our sleep pattern is halted until we find ourselves back at home. On our travels, we can pack a few items that we find in our bedrooms.
The body reacts to certain cues in the environment which helps us to feel comfortable and helps us to have a more restful sleep.
That’s how sensitive our bodies can be. In that case, a small family picture frame, your little bed buddy, your favorite socks and others could come along with you on your journey.
You can even consider white noise to improve the quality of your sleep
5. Eat light meals
Stay light to sleep more. Simple. Eating heavily before bed increases your blood sugar levels and that keeps you active throughout.
By eating light foods, especially, ones with lesser calories and carbohydrates, your blood levels (glycogen) are kept on the low and this helps you to sleep easier.
Bananas, cherries, oatmeal are a few light meals you can take to keep your body light enough for sleep.
6. Stay hydrated
If you’re not drinking enough water, your body gets tired and fatigued a lot quicker.
Do your body some favor and stay as hydrated as possible all the time to reduce the effects of jetlag. You could carry a water bottle wherever you go as a reminder.
7. Embrace the outdoors
This might sound counterintuitive but if you’re jetlagged, get out of your house.
Go to the beach, walk to the coffee shop, take a walk; do all these in the sun. The sunlight does a lot of good to the body and helps to adjust the body’s internal clock.
The adjustment means more restful sleep for you.
Staying indoors could worsen the jetlag and that will not be good for us. So as much as possible, spend your day out in the sun. It helps a lot.
Jetlag can leave you unproductive, feeling weak all the time, feeling tired and other negative experiences. These are a few tips that can help you beat jetlag so you get more restful sleep.