Does flying long-haul always do a number on your body clock? Consider this your expert guide on how to beat jet lag.
It’s 2.47 am and you’re wide awake, ready for your first espresso.
Somewhere in the world, there’s a 7 am alarm clock beeping and your body can hear it. If you’re acquainted with jet lag you know this drill all too well, but if you thought the only way to deal was with a combo of Netflix and caffeine, we’ve got (good) news.
Beating jet lag is possible if you follow these 3 smart steps…
1. Before you go
The reason we’re such suckers for jet lag is because humans weren’t made to jump time zones.
Our bodies are built to sync with a 24-hour cycle, so when you zoom to the other side of the world, it’s super confusing for your circadian rhythm.
To avoid the shock to your system, sleep experts recommend easing yourself into your new time zone for a few days before you leave. You can do that by going to bed 30 minutes to one hour earlier each night (if you’re flying east), and, yes, setting the alarm earlier too.
If you’re flying west, high-five! Jet lag is less likely to be an issue. But if you’d rather be safe than bleary-eyed, start moving your bedtime later instead.
If you need help getting drowsy earlier, try eating foods rich in tryptophan. This is one of the building blocks of the hormone melatonin, which makes you sleepy at night. Some good bedtime snacks? Banana, milk, walnuts, pumpkin seeds and turkey.
2. On the plane
As soon as you’re on board your flight, forget where you came from and set your watch and devices to your destination’s time zone.
Try to eat and sleep according to this time zone to prime your body to adjust when you land, using sunglasses or eye masks to block out light if necessary.
While it’s tempting to queue up the in-flight movies and stockpile mini bottles of wine for a long flight, avoiding booze and the blue light from screens will help you get to sleep (and stay there) when it’s time for your nap.
3. When you land
Okay, kids, this one is crucial – when you touch down, find some sunshine and get it into your eyeballs. Why? Sunshine resets your body clock, so getting a good dose of it will help your circadian rhythm get the message that you’re on a new schedule.
Of course, if you arrive at night you’ll have to wait till morning to get your fix, but make a point of seeking it out – don’t be tempted to sleep half the day away to ‘catch up’.
Eating meals at proper times can help reboot your system too, and research shows that exercise makes your body clock more sensitive to the syncing effects of sunlight, so a little sweat sesh in your new location is an excellent idea.
Natural Melatonin is also a great way to get those circadian rhythms beating to the right tune and over the lag quicker. You can buy natural melatonin tablets or liquid online, or visit your GP for a prescription.
And finally… There is, of course, an app for helping you schedule your ‘anti-lag’ routine.
Head over to Jetlag Rooster and let the technology do the work for you. Sort of.
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