Many travelers do not have the luxury to get over jet lag naturally. Most have to report to work or have short trips in which they want to get a lot of work or sightseeing done. In any case, ‘jet lag, can’t sleep at night’ is a common complaint travelers have upon returning home or while visiting a foreign country across time zones. So let us take a look at some ways to reduce jet lag symptoms and overcome jet lag insomnia.
1. Prepare before you travel
This method is known as the Henry Kissinger method as it was apparently used by Henry Kissinger when he had to attend an important meeting in a foreign country. In hopes to systematically adjust his body clock to the local time in that country, he would start sleeping an hour earlier each day and try to rise an hour later as well. This he would do at least a week before boarding the plane. This is an easy way to overcome jet lag insomnia but it might not always be convenient for people with professional/family duties.
2. Adhere rigorously to your hometown schedule
Another way to beat jet lag symptoms is to eat when you would at home and sleep when you would at home at your destination. To an extent, this method works but it requires iron will and also you’d need to be in total denial of events around you!
3. Adjust the illumination
Light plays a major role on the body’s circadian rhythm. Exposure to bright light in the morning will help you advance the circadian rhythm-meaning you’d want to sleep earlier (useful when flying eastwards). Conversely, exposure to bright light in the evening would retard the circadian rhythm and help you sleep later (useful when you fly westwards).
You can hardly expect to sleep when you are exercising. And physical exercise will help keep your body alert for an hour or two. So exercising is a must to adjust to new schedule. It is best to exercise at the times of the day when you are more prone to sleepiness. Similarly, it is best to avoid physical exercise less than 2 hours before bedtime if you find it difficult to fall asleep (Eastward flights).
5. Take power naps
Naps can produce surprisingly powerful waking effects. However, it is important to time your naps properly to reduce jet lag symptoms. A power nap of 15 to 20 minutes can considerably reduce the urge to sleep that was present before and that made concentration difficult. Try not to sleep for over 25 minutes as it could induce slight degree of drowsiness. Longer naps during the day can also delay your adaptation to local time and won’t help overcome jet lag insomnia.
Related: Easy Ways to Stay Awake
6. Use social cues
Social interactions can help stimulate the brain and prevent sleepiness. Watching movies, talking to friends, making new acquaintances, playing games, listening to audio books, reading books or magazines from cover to cover can help you resist sleep. Some people do these things weeks before they travel so that they can sleep later and later each day in order to adjust to new schedule and also stay asleep longer once they are at their destination.
7. Foods and beverages
Eat high protein foods at breakfast time and eat high carbohydrate foods at night. Likewise, restrict intake of stimulants like coffee and tea to mornings upon arrival at the destination. Dehydration aggravates fatigue and increases symptoms of jetlag. Therefore, stay hydrated throughout the day. Also take care while consuming caffeinated and alcoholic beverages as they tend to have a diuretic effect.
8. Melatonin supplements
Many athletes are prescribed melatonin supplements to help overcome jet lag insomnia. Melatonin is a hormone secreted by the pineal gland. It affects the body’s sleep-wake cycle and research has shown that taking melatonin an hour before bedtime can help induce sleep. Oral doses of 0.5 to 3 mg of melatonin are safe but you need doctor’s prescription for it. Some side effects of these supplements include morning grogginess and dreamy sleep. If you plan to take Melatonin, it is better to start taking them before you travel so you can ensure that it suits you.
9. Mental activity
Mental activity can also play an important role in changing bodily rhythms. Having to get up, perform at a meeting or on stage, catch a bus etc can all unique neurotransmitters that help you stay awake. So keep walking, talking and socializing to help your body speed up the resynchronization process and get your body clock in synch with local time.
10. Get adjusted psychologically
This is an important way to get over jet lag from Asia or Europe etc. Adjust your clock/wristwatch the moment you get on the plane. Follow the destination schedules and soon your new time givers will help your body clock adjust faster.
Jet lag is real and even though you sleep better on the second or third night, you might still awake sooner than needed on the subsequent nights. So continue using the jet lag remedies discussed above even if you feel you have adjusted. Avoid driving or operating machinery and give your body the time and tools it needs to adjust.