Jetlag can make it difficult to enjoy your vacation. You may be tempted to sleep your afternoon away, or you might start feeling tired before the real fun even begins. Fortunately, there are some strategies you can use to get yourself adjusted to your new time zone more quickly.
Seek light when it’s right
Our circadian clocks adjust based on our exposure to light. That’s why watching TV or using your computer before you go to bed can make it more difficult to fall asleep. You can adjust to your new time zone by exposing yourself to light at the right time.
If you are travelling from east to west, you will need evening exposure to light, to send the signal that you need to stay up longer before going to sleep. If you are travelling from west to east, you will need morning exposure to light, so your body knows not to sleep into the afternoon. It might be difficult to get out of bed and go outside early in the morning right after you travel, but doing so will help you get on the right track.
Take a nap
Taking a nap is a good technique to use if you are travelling from east to west. If you’re going from New Jersey to Seattle, for example, you might start feeling like it’s time to go to bed at 7pm. But taking a nap earlier in the day can help you stay awake longer and go to bed at an appropriate hour for your new time zone.
When travelling from west to east, you might have a hard time going to bed at an appropriate hour, because your body thinks it’s much earlier. In this case, taking melatonin might help you fall asleep.
It’s important to remember, though, that melatonin is not regulated by the Food and Drug Administration. So if you are going to buy it, you should do research on the manufacturer to make sure what you’re getting is actually melatonin and not just a filler.
Use an app
There are a number of apps out there that are designed to help you quickly adjust to a new time zone. One example is Entrain, which was developed by researchers at the University of Michigan. Entrain will ask you questions to figure out what time your body thinks it is, and what time you need to adjust to. It will tell you when you need to seek light and when you need to avoid light in order to beat jetlag.
Jetlag is difficult to avoid. But using the above methods may minimize your jetlag and allow you to get the most out of your vacation. Or, they could help you more quickly readjust when you come home, so you can get back into your regular schedule right away.
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