We’ve all heard it, that wherever you are traveling, if you’re crossing timezones, your circadian rhythm is going to suffer. Jetlag bites, but not as much as misinformation does. There are a dozen recommendations on how to avoid jet lag for every person who has ever dealt with it, and most of them don’t work. There are a few, though, that can set you up for feeling well rested and alert during your vacation or business trip.
Here are some of our top jetlag myths to bust:
Myth Number 1:
Jetlag is a result of not sleeping.
Not true. That circadian rhythm mentioned above is your body’s natural internal clock. When this becomes desynchronized with our environment you’ll start experiencing all of the symptoms of jetlag. Those include difficulty sleeping, fatigue, indigestion, a bad mood, and difficulty concentrating. You could time you sleep perfectly to not miss a wink, but once your internal clock is thrown off from what’s going on outside, you’ll start feeling the effects of jetlag.
Myth Number 2:
Sleep overnight on the flight.
It makes sense at first, but when you consider how terrible it is to try and sleep on a plane as well as you likely won’t be in the air long enough for a full night’s rest, it really defeats the purpose. Instead, book a flight during the day, that way when you land you can grab dinner and go right to sleep. Much easier than forcing yourself to stay awake all day without sleep.
Myth Number 3:
A night cap will help you sleep on the flight.
Because there is always someone who thinks they have a way to beat the system, this still deserves being said after explaining why it is generally a bad idea to try to sleep on the plane. The problem here is that often alcohol acts as a stimulant. It seems a bit counter-intuitive, but when you consider how alcohol intensifies excitement and attention (even if making it a bit sloppy), it’s not any stretch to see how it can actually keep you awake, especially in a new environment.
Myth Number 4:
Jetlag can only be dealt with once you’re on the ground.
Once again, just not true. An easy way to help fight off the full effects of jetlag is to adjust your sleep schedule bit by bit before finally boarding the flight. So, when you do land at your destination it’s a few less hours of a difference. When every minute counts, a few hours makes a huge difference.
In fact, there are even apps people have put together to help you schedule when to sleep to reduce the effects of jetlag.
Myth Number 5:
You just have to deal with it.
Jetlag can be hard to avoid, but as we’ve discussed, there are definitely a few tools on hand to fight off the worst of it.
One particularly potent way of dealing with jetlag is to control how much, and when, you are around light and use melatonin.
What does that look like in practice? If you are traveling east have bright lights turned on early in the morning and avoid it at night. For traveling west, use bright lights in the evening and avoid them in the morning. Make sure to use a little melatonin when you are trying to sleep, as well. Do this bit by bit to set your own circadian rhythm up to be closer to the time zone of where you are traveling to and you will have a much easier time of things once you’ve landed.