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How to Cope With Jet Lag

What is jet lag and why do you get it?
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6. Consider melatonin. continued...

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 than less.”

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.”

8. Eat sensibly.

Some frequent fliers swear by jet lag diets -- such as eating a heavy diet for a few days before travel and fasting on flight day. No diets have been proven effective for preventing jet lag, however. “We do recommend not eating a high carb or fatty diet close to bedtime because that can be disruptive to sleep,” says Siebern.

9. Take a hot bath before bedtime.

A bath can ease sore muscles from travel and help you relax and wind down. The drop in your body temperature when you get out of a bath may also make you sleepy.

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