How to Cope With Jet Lag
What is jet lag and why do you get it?
2. Adapt to your new schedule while in flight.
Change your watch when you get on the plane.“This is mostly psychological,”
says Siebern, “but it helps you get into the mind-set of what you’ll be doing
in the place where you’re going.”
Try to sleep on the plane if it’s nighttime where you’re going or stay awake
if it’s daytime -- but don’t force it. “It can be difficult to force yourself
to sleep and that can cause frustration, which can then prevent sleep,” says
Siebern. “If that happens, just try to rest as much as possible.”
3. Arrive early.
If you need to be on top of your game for an event at your destination, try
to arrive a few days early, so your mind and body can adjust.
4. Stay hydrated.
Drink water before, during, and after your flight to counteract dehydration.
Avoid alcohol or caffeine a few hours before you plan to sleep. Alcohol and
caffeine can disrupt sleep and may cause dehydration.
5. Move around.
Get up and walk around periodically, do some static exercises, and stretch
on the flight. But after you land, avoid heavy exercise near bedtime, as it can
6. Consider melatonin.
Melatonin naturally secreted in our bodies helps regulate our circadian
rhythms so that we sleep at night. But the jury is still out on the
effectiveness of the supplement melatonin to combat jet lag and aid sleep. Some
research shows that it can reduce jet lag on flights both east and west, but
other research has not shown a benefit.
Verceles suggests taking 3 milligrams of melatonin an hour or two before
bedtime at your destination, and plan to sleep for 10 hours. “This takes into
account the one or two hours needed to absorb the melatonin and allow it to
enter the bloodstream, as well as 10 hours for sleep,” Verceles says. “Ten
hours may be a generous overestimate, but it’s better to allow more sleep time
Melatonin appears to be safe if taken short term, but its long-term effects
are not known. If you want to try melatonin, check with your doctor first.
7. Try natural light therapy.
Exposure to sunlight helps regulate our circadian rhythms. ”On westward
flights, get bright morning light at your new destination, and avoid afternoon
and evening light exposure,” Verceles suggests. “On eastward flights, avoid
early light exposure in morning and get as much light as possible in the
afternoon and early evening. The light helps shift your body’s circadian clock,
so that you feel rested and wake at appropriate times at your destination.”
Commercially available light boxes may also be helpful in coping with jet
lag if used at appropriate times, but Siebern advises consulting with a sleep
specialist first. “You want to make sure the light isn’t too intense or
shifting your circadian clock in the wrong direction because this can increase
the duration of jet lag,” she says. “And light boxes are not advised for some
people, such as those with cataracts or bipolar disorder.”