Your flight is ready to board, and you’ve booked your dream hotel. Your itinerary is the perfect balance of relaxation and seeing the sights. But there’s one problem you can’t plan for—jet lag.
Or can you?
Travelers often silently suffer through sleepy days and sleepless nights as they adjust to a new time zone, but it doesn’t have to be that way. There are a few strategies that can help you beat jet lag, or at least, significantly reduce its effects.
What is jet lag?
Jet lag occurs when your body’s circadian rhythm, or internal clock, is out of sync with your time zone. So, even if it’s 5 p.m. in Tokyo when your plane lands, your body might feel like it’s 5 a.m. back in your hometown of New York. Jet lag can make you tired in the middle of the day and full of energy just before it’s time to sleep.
Humans lived for millions of years without air travel, so we didn’t evolve the capability to instantly transition to a new time zone. Although sensitivity to jet lag varies by individual, experienced travelers often claim you can only truly adjust your internal clock by about one hour per day. That means it takes a week or more to fully adjust to the time zone of a distant destination.
Of course, the best strategies to help you beat jet lag vary with your circumstances and health needs. Plus, while PolicyGenius can help you find the right health insurance, we’re not physicians, so we can’t prescribe care. As such, you should consult a doctor to decide how to deal with serious sleep problems or jet lag.
Get some orange goggles.
You might look like you’re a mad scientist or a welder who forgot to take off their glasses, but research suggests wearing orange eyewear can mitigate jet lag. Why? Different wavelengths of light produce different effects in our brains. Light from the blue part of the spectrum suppresses the production of melatonin, a hormone that signals to our body it’s time to sleep.
Wearing orange-tinted glasses reduces the amount of blue light that reaches your eyes Orange goggles aren’t a failsafe, but, given you’re already fighting against your body’s internal clock when crossing time zones, you might want all the help you can get.
Let Entrain do the hard work for you.
Developed by the University of Michigan, Entrain tracks your current sleep schedule, exposure to light, and heart rate, and then compares your schedule with the time zone you’re traveling to. It crunches the numbers and creates a personalized suite of recommendations to help you best adjust to your new time zone.
For example, it tells you when to avoid light to prevent yourself from staying up later than you should. This free app is useful, not only because it’s backed by science and developed by a university, but mostly because it takes the guesswork out of preparing for a trip. Just plug in your destination and let the app tell you when to go to sleep or stay awake. You can read about some more tech designed to help you sleep here.
Skip the nap.
If you’re tired, it can be tempting to take an afternoon nap to get refreshed during your trip. But experienced travelers say this is a bad idea.
"Taking a nap will confuse your body’s internal clock," Takuya Kon, a businessman who frequently travels for work, says. "It’s better to be tired in the afternoon than wake up at 3 a.m. and not be able to fall back asleep."
Experiment with what works for you.
Different travelers swear by different methods to beat jet lag. From having a drink in the evening to sweating out a long session at the gym, they have their own preferred methods of getting to sleep and adjusting to a new time zone.
Part of beating jet lag is looking at it from the right perspective. If you constantly tell yourself that you feel tired, you’ll get stressed out and ruin your trip. There’s no perfect method to instantly eliminate jet lag, but with the right mindset and possibly a few tricks, you can significantly reduce its effects.
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