With the holiday season in full swing many of you will be spending time in airports and will likely be heading into parts of the country that are in different time zones than you’re accustomed to. So, whether you’re a seasoned traveler or an infrequent flier you will likely experience jet lag – a condition that profoundly effects your sleep and how well you get through the day.
Studies have shown that jet lag is caused because of the imbalance in your body’s biological clock when you travel to different time zones. Our bodies naturally function on the “circadian rhythms” – a 24-hour sleep/wake cycle. When you travel to a new time zone your body’s circadian rhythms are still based on your “home” time zone even when you’re physically in a new physical location. It can take several days for our bodies to catch up.
You can practice some easy behavioral and sleep adjustments before, during and after your arrival to minimize the effects of jet lag:
- Anticipate the time change for trips by getting up and going to bed earlier several days prior to an eastward trip and later for a westward trip.
- Upon boarding the plane, change your watch to the destination time zone.
- Choose a flight that arrives in the early evening and try to stay awake until at least 10 p.m. local time. (If you must sleep during the day, take a short nap in the early afternoon, but no longer than two hours. Set an alarm to be sure not to over sleep.)
- Avoid alcohol or caffeine at least three to four hours before bedtime. Both act as “stimulants” and prevent sleep.
- Upon arrival at a destination, avoid heavy meals
- Avoid any heavy exercise close to bedtime.
- Bring earplugs and blindfolds to help dampen noise and block out unwanted light while sleeping.
- Get out into sunlight whenever possible. Daylight is a powerful stimulant for regulating the biological clock. (Staying indoors worsens jet lag.)
If you’re traveling with your family it’s equally as important for the children to get on a new sleep pattern so that when you arrive at your destination you’re all ready to enjoy the sights and sounds of your destination. You certainly don’t want to spend holidays with the family in a haze of grogginess and going to bed early when the festivities are just getting underway!
Since 2002, Valley Sleep Center, accredited by the American Academy of Sleep Medicine, has provided Arizona with diagnostic sleep disorder testing in a home-like atmosphere, ensuring a comfortable, relaxing experience for patients. Their Board Certified Sleep Medicine Specialists consist of experienced and knowledgeable physicians who provide expert advice across a multitude of sleep related disorders including insomnia, sleep apnea, snoring, excessive daytime sleepiness, hypertension, sleepwalking, and pediatric sleep problems. They accept most insurance plans as well as Medicare. For more information contact Lauri Leadley at 480-830-3900; http://www.valleysleepcenter.com