Heads up! This is a guest post from Vanessa Bermudez.
When traveling to a new region, you certainly don’t want to hinder your experience because you’re still adjusting to the time difference. It’s common to feel exhausted from jet lag, but there are natural ways that you can combat this inevitable part of travel.
Here are some tips to help reduce jet lag and abrupt time zone changes:
Reset your clock
You can help reduce jet lag by setting your watch or clock to the time zone of your destination before you actually get there. If you are going somewhere that isn’t too far, perhaps from Los Angeles to New York, it’s easier to adjust to the three hour time difference if you start preparing beforehand. Going to sleep earlier than normal can ease your body into the east coast time zone, and make it less challenging to stay awake or fall asleep as a result of the time change.
Even if you are traveling a much further distance, you can still benefit from seeing your new time zone before leaving on a flight. During the traveling process, you can try to sleep or stay awake based on your destination’s current time of day as a way to get over jet lag when you arrive.
Melatonin levels are highest when your body is signaling that it’s time for bed since this hormone regulates sleep. Melatonin is released in accordance with your circadian rhythm but traveling to a new time zone can cause your internal clock to become inconsistent with your natural sleep-wake cycle. This disruption in your circadian rhythm causes jet lag, but you can use melatonin supplements as a jet lag cure to promote sleep when necessary and help your body adjust to the time difference.
Use light to your advantage
Bright light, whether natural or artificial, can be used to adapt your circadian rhythm to the time change. Light is an indicator for melatonin release, so exposing yourself to daylight once you’ve reached your new destination may keep you awake until the sun goes down. If you know you will be arriving at a time when you should be asleep for the night, try to avoid bright lights and blue lights from screens at least one hour before you want to go to bed.
Consider drinking caffeine
The majority of Americans consume caffeine on a daily basis, but is there a downside to drinking coffee or soda when flying to a new time zone? Well, the answer depends on where you’re headed. If you are traveling westward, caffeine can sometimes help you stay awake for longer than usual by delaying the release of melatonin. However, if you are traveling east, you should avoid caffeinated beverages in the afternoon and evening as you will be losing hours rather than gaining them.
Thanks, Vanessa for sharing some of your tips for how to get over jet lag!
Vanessa Bermudez is a writer based in Brooklyn, New York. She is the co-founder and editor of Modern Girls, a collaborative digital space featured in Girl Gaze Project and Teen Vogue.