The circadian rhythm sleep disorder known as "jet lag" can be a real downer when it comes to traveling. As soon as you arrive in a new country you want to explore, but jet lag convinces you that sleeping would be more enjoyable. He messes with your mind, turning you into a disoriented, hazy-headed and incredibly fatigued person. Sometimes jet lag can even make you physically sick.
Usually when traveling, it takes a person one day to adjust to one or two time zones. So if you crossed over four time zones to get to your study abroad destination, it could take you up to four days to fully recover from jet lag. That's four days of sleepiness you shouldn't have to deal with.
While it's difficult to avoid jet lag all together, you can take some steps to help decrease the number of days you spend in a fog. This is especially important for people traveling East, as jet lag tends to affect those "losing" time more than those "gaining" time. Take a look at this advice on giving jet lag the cold shoulder.
1. Be in "Zone Changing" Shape
The healthier you are, the faster your body will adjust to a new time zone. Be sure to exercise, follow a healthy diet and get plenty of rest on a regular basis long before you take off. Training for a flight sounds kind of crazy, and it probably is. As long as you are an active person and live a healthy lifestyle, you shouldn't have to worry too much. Just know that your lifestyle affects many aspects of your health, including your ability to travel.
2. Prepare Ahead of Time
Okay, college procrastinators. It's time to get serious. If you want to avoid jet lag, have everything packed and ready to go a week before your flight. That way, instead of stressing about what you forgot during your flight, you'll have an entire week at home to stress and add items you may have otherwise left behind. This will allow you to have a more relaxing and restful flight. For you overachievers, slowly begin changing your sleeping and eating schedule several weeks before departure. This should be a gradual change; try adjusting two or three hours each week. By doing this you won't have to adjust as much when arriving in you destination.
3. Stay Hydrated
Dehydration leads to a more severe case of jet lag, so make sure you are drinking plenty of water before and during your flight. You may be tempted to drink something with caffeine to help you stay awake, but beverages such as coffee cause dehydration. Similarly, you might want a little alcohol to help you fall asleep, but this also leads to dehydration. When it comes to caffeine and alcohol, it's better to avoid the two and give your body the chance to adjust naturally.
4. Skip the In-flight Meal
One relatively new jet lag-avoiding technique featured in Harper's Magazine involves a small fast to help your eating schedule adjust to the new time zone more quickly. Scientists argue that eating is just as crucial as sleeping when it comes to your body's natural cycles. Because of this, if you avoid eating 12 to 16 hours before breakfast time in your new location, you will likely suffer a less severe form of jet lag. Going that long without eating may be a challenge for some, but you can look forward to eating a large breakfast in your study abroad destination.
5. Sleep Sporadically
As soon as your flight takes off you'll probably set your watch to your new time zone and attempt to sleep accordingly. While this seems like a good idea, it's actually healthier to only sleep for an hour at a time. During long flights, you should get up and walk around every few hours to help increase blood flow. This shouldn't be hard to do with all of that water you'll be drinking. Also make sure to wear comfortable clothes and bring sound canceling headphones if necessary. While you won't be able to sleep for five hours straight, it's still important to make the sleep you do get count.
6. Follow Your New Schedule
Once you arrive in your destination, it's important to follow the new time zone schedule right away. It is especially vital to stay awake the entire first day you arrive in a new country so that you can sleep through the night. Natural sunlight and the excitement of being someplace new should help you on your mission. If you absolutely must sleep during the day, set an alarm so you only sleep for one or two hours at a time. The quicker your body adjusts, the sooner you'll be able to have unforgettable adventures abroad!
What advice to you have for avoiding or curing jet lag?