Maybe you have a love/hate relationship with your job. You love the fact that you get to travel the globe and see new sights, but you hate what the frequent changes in time zones do to your system. In other words, you get bad cases of jet lag. What’s a frequent flier to do?
“Your body’s sleep cycle is controlled by the daily alternating sunlight and darkness patterns you experience,” says Pamela Smith, a sports nutritionist and author of The Energy Edge (LifeLine Press, $19.95). “Jet lag occurs when your body’s inside clock and outside clock are [registering] two different things.”
When you travel to a new time zone, your intrinsic, biological sleep pattern stays on its normal schedule for several days. That’s why your body tells you it’s time to sleep, even though it may be the middle of the afternoon in your new environs.
Fortunately, there are some measures you can take to keep flying fatigue to a minimum. Smith recommends the following:
- Take a later flight. “If possible, choose a flight that allows you to arrive early in the evening, then stay up until 10 p.m. local time,” advises Smith. The idea is to stay up for most of the day, so avoid taking naps. If you absolutely need to rest, do so for less than two hours and as far away from your normal bedtime as possible.
- Expose yourself to natural light. Light alerts your internal clock to get started. Getting out in the sun early will help your body adjust more quickly to its new schedule.
- Adjust your sleep schedule before you leave. “If you’re traveling west, go to bed one hour earlier for each time zone you will be experiencing,” says Smith. Do the exact opposite (i.e., go to bed one hour later for each time zone) if you’re heading east.
- Watch your liquids. Cut down or completely eliminate caffeine and alcohol, and refrain from drinking these beverages less than three hours before your bedtime. To increase hydration, drink plenty of water and natural fruit juices.
- Eat before boarding. Snacking before you get on the plane will keep your blood sugar stable and your anxiety levels low.