Jet lag throws off the body’s natural sleep-wake cycle, also known as the circadian rhythm. The body is still synchronized to the time schedule where the flight started, but the actual time of day gives the body other indications. Jet lag can manifest itself in a variety of ways, and the symptoms can be mild to severe. Impaired cognitive ability, fatigue, insomnia, digestion problems and mood changes are generally considered the most common symptoms of jet leg. The symptoms are generally worse the farther you travel.
Here are three ways to improve sleep when suffering from jet lag:
Drink lots of water
You become severely dehydrated when flying. The air inside an airplane is extremely dry, and you will become dehydrated if you don’t drink plenty of water. You should drink water before you get on the plane, while in flight and after the plane lands. That also means avoiding coffee, soda and other drinks that can dehydrate you.
Besides rehydrating, drinking water will helps you sleep better. The human body is up to 80% water, and water is extremely important to the brain’s function. It’s also important to the body’s chemical function. Dinking water adds enough salt to the body to help the body’s biological systems function naturally. That means when the body is hydrated, you are more likely sleep.
Take some melatonin
Melatonin is a hormone that the body naturally produces and helps regulate the circadian rhythm. You can purchase melatonin at any drug store or natural food store, and it is considered safe when taken for short periods of time. When taking the supplement, the hormone can help reregulate the body’s natural rhythms.
You should take melatonin after the sun goes down when you arrive at your destination, because the hormone signals your body that it is a natural time to sleep. Make sure you are settled into your hotel or other accommodations before you take the supplement, as the medication can take effect within 30 minutes. Research shows that melatonin works best when someone travels more than five time zones, but it can be useful for people who travel between two and four time zones.
Change your schedule before traveling
A simple way to start resettling your circadian rhythm is to begin resetting your clock before you leave. A few days or a week before you travel, go to bed an hour early or an hour later depending on which direction you are traveling. The idea is that your body’s natural clock will be closer to the day-night cycle of the place where you are traveling. That way you can more easily fall asleep at the time that is normal in that region of the world. This method will be easier for shorter flights, like ones across the country, but can be more challenging when flying overseas.