How to Prevent Jet Lag

Sleeping with your favorite Traveling Squirrel Mascot helps, too.

Sleeping with your favorite Traveling Squirrel Mascot helps, too.

If you’re taking a trip (with us or on your own) you may be traversing a number of time zones.  This, as so many of you know, can wreak havoc on your biological clock.  But there are things that you can do that can mitigate the effects of jet lag.

I recently read an article written by an astronaut, discussing how they see about 16 sunrises in a 24-hour period, which, as you can imagine, makes it very difficult to get restful sleep. This article supported what I’ve long believed—wear a sleep mask.  You are particularly sensitive to any light after you have traveled through a number of timezones.  Blocking this light is possibly the best thing you can do to help you to stay asleep.  I highly recommend getting one.  Eagle Creek makes a good one, as does Brookstone (memory foam type).  Whatever is comfortable and blocks out all light will work fine. 

20140510-DSC04086Secondly, wear earplugs.  Since you will be sleeping when your body thinks it should be awake, you are sensitive to every little noise.  When you’re traveling there are all sorts of noises that you may not be used to (roosters, geckos, loud insects outside, chai wallahs, etc).  Wearing earplugs will help to reduce that noise considerably.  Just buy any pair that you find comfortable.  They’re really cheap and very effective.  My favorite brand is Howard Leight.

Third is some sort of pill to help maintain sleep.  Take it just before going to bed.  I prefer a 25mg Benadryl PLUS a time-release Melatonin.  That’s my magic formula–you may have something different (like a Tylenol PM or something stronger). Melatonin is probably the most important ingredient in the mix as it helps to naturally reset your circadian rhythm/biological clock. (Please note that long-term use of Benadryl and other anticholinergic drugs has been linked to a higher risk of dementia, so only use as necessary, not as a long-term solution to chronic insomnia.)

Fourth: try to sleep on the plane if you’re going to be landing in the morning and try to stay awake on the plane if you’re going to landing at night.  This is much easier said than done for many people (Lauren can’t sleep on flights at all).  This is probably the least important step in the mix.

Finally, do your best to stay awake when it’s light and try to sleep when it’s dark.  Stay off the computer 1 hour before going to bed and definitely avoid caffeine at least 5-8 hours before going to bed (based on your personal sensitivities to caffeine). 

There is much more on the Internet on this topic and even a complex phone app that can help you get into sync with your new time zone, but following these tips above will surely set you down the right path to enjoying your vacation, jet lag-free.

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