Jet lag is very much a part of any business travelers regular routine. It can cloud your brain and zap your energy. “Jet lag happens when there is a misalignment between the actual time zone and your circadian clock,” says doctor Melanie DesChatelets, a Vancouver-based naturopathic doctor. She says that travelers typically experience jet lag when flying over five or more time zones.
The body’s internal clock releases certain hormones at set times throughout the day. These hormones regulate body temperature, sleep and other processes. The misalignment of hormones with time zone changes means you may experience difficulty sleeping, headaches, fatigue and trouble concentrating. DesChatelets says these symptoms typically subside within two days. However, this can be of little comfort when you’re trying to stay awake during an important meeting with a client. There are things you can do to control jet lag and here are a few of them.
Reset your body’s internal clock before you take off
“Try to advance or delay your sleep a few days before your trip so that when you leave your circadian clock has already started to adjust to the change,” says DesChatelets. Advancing your bedtime by an hour or two if heading east and delaying it if heading west can help you adjust to the new time zone easier and have you falling asleep faster.
Adjust your watch when you leave
Changing the time on your watch before you take off can help you relieve some of the time dislocation.
Add Melatonin to your suitcase if traveling east
Even though sleeping pills may make you fall asleep quickly, they can also cause dehydration and leave you feeling worse than you would if you originally only had jet lag symptoms. “Melatonin is released by the pineal gland before sleep,” says DesChatelets. “It’s one of the circadian hormones that makes you sleepy at night.”
If taken two hours before bedtime, Melatonin can help reset your circadian rhythm that gets disrupted by the change in time zones. Also, unlike sleeping pills, taken in small quantities, melatonin is nontoxic, non-addictive and safe.
Enjoy the great outdoors
To help your body adjust to its new time zone, doctors recommend getting out in the sun first thing in the morning. Sunlight also affects your circadian rhythm, so you want to expose yourself to as much light as possible.
Let the sun guide you when traveling west
Even though you’ll be tired early in the evening when flying west, it is recommended that you stay up until a reasonable hour at night before allowing yourself to go to sleep. Too much caffeine can interrupt your sleep patterns, so instead, choose to stay awake with bright lights. Keep the curtains open and the lights on in your room to let in as much light as possible.
Do not disturb
Disrupted sleep in addition to jet lag is a formula for disaster. Make sure you can stay asleep once you call it a night by using an eye mask or earplugs to eliminate any distractions that might wake you up, just make sure you can hear your alarm.