Every traveler dreads the side effect of global adventure — jet lag, the imbalance in our body’s internal clock caused by traveling through too many time zone. It spoils your sleep, destroys your mood, ruins your appetite, wreaks havoc on your ability to concentrate, and drags down your energy levels.
According to the Mayo Clinic, it takes about a day to recover for each time zone crossed. Unfortunately, too many of us have to return back to work to recover properly from our trips across the globe. Although some of jet lag’s symptoms may be inevitable, others can be entirely preventable. Here’s how you can stop making the biggest mistakes that are going to make beating jet lag harder.
1. Don’t stay indoors
When you get off your flight, you may be tempted to hole up in your room and nap the stress of a long flight away. But if it’s daytime in your local timezone, it behooves you to get out and catch some rays. Bright natural light is nature’s jet lag antidote because the sun in our eyeballs helps us regulate our biological clock.
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“If you are going east-to-west you’ll want to get evening exposure to light. And if you’re going west to east, you’ll want to get morning exposure to light,” Stanford sleep expert Jamie Zeitzer said about combating jet lag.
Once you lie down on your bed in the middle of the day, inertia will take over, and jet lag will have the upper hand. Get up and get moving! As one long-haul traveler writes, “I’ve found I bounce back better if I keep moving. Walk around the airport terminal as much as possible, get your blood circulating.”
2. Don’t look at screens when you need to be asleep
If jet lag is giving you insomnia, you may be tempted to scroll through your phone or stay up all night watching Netflix. But according to sleep experts, this will only prolong your circadian disruption.
In fact, if you know you need to be asleep on your flight back, avoid the in-flight movie. Why? Because technology is too stimulating for our brains. “The blue-spectrum light they emit is very activating and can delay sleep,” UCLA’s Dr. Alon Avidan warns.
3. Don’t have that nightcap
You may want to have some wine to ease your journey into dreamland, but alcohol is a big no-no. It not only dehydrates your body which makes you more tired, it also worsens your quality of sleep.
And you need all the sleep you can get to battle jet lag. The National Sleep Foundation recommends abstaining from alcohol or caffeine at least three hours before your desired bedtime if you experience jet lag.
4. Don’t dwell on it too much
Jet lag can drive you crazy if you think about it too much. Instead of cataloging your jet lag miseries, embrace the surreal world you find yourself in — part of overcoming jet lag is changing your state of mind.
“Try to effect a mental shift and don’t compare your time zone to the one you just left,” Lonely Planet writer Anita Isalska recommends. “Dwelling on the fact that your friends back home are just getting up/going to bed? That way madness lies.”