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Five Tips to Prevent Jet Lag

  • Date: 23 August 2012
  • Author: Rich Lovell, WWF Guest Blogger
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You just arrived in India, where you’re excited to search for the endangered Bengal tigers. But you soon realize your grogginess and inability to sleep are making early morning safari drives more of a chore than a dream come true.

Jet lag—when external indicators do not match up with your circadian rhythm, which dictates your sleeping, waking and eating cycles—can affect even the most seasoned travelers. Grogginess, restlessness, dehydration, headaches, dizziness and insomnia are common symptoms. You may land in your new destination, but your body still feels as though it never left home.

Try following these tips, and the tigers won’t have to wait another day.

1. Be your own Father Time
You can lessen the effects of jet lag beforehand by adjusting the times you wake up in the morning and go to sleep at night. Go to bed and wake up based on the time of your travel destination, adjusting one hour each day. A trip with a 12-hour time change will be hard to completely acclimate to beforehand, but adjust as much as you can without interfering with your schedule. Another tip is to adjust your watch based on the time difference in order to prepare yourself for the time change. Just don’t confuse the two; I’m sure your boss won’t be very understanding when you’re an hour late for that important meeting because you’re already on vacation time.

2. Bottoms up! ... or maybe not
You might want to lay off the cocktails at the airport bar before your flight. Try to avoid excessive alcohol or caffeine, and try to drink the daily recommended intake of water, all in order to prevent dehydration, which can result from the dry air of airplane cabins and worsen certain side-effects of jet lag. There is even such a thing as the “anti-jet lag diet,” which includes protein packed foods throughout the day, and a third meal of high-carbohydrates to make you feel tired. This will all help to adjust your circadian rhythm to the time difference.

3. Take melatonin
Melatonin is a hormone produced by your body that helps regulate your cycle of sleeping and waking. The hormone can help lessen the effects of jet lag and help reset your biological clock, but is not proven to be an actual cure (there isn’t one). At what time you take the hormone and how much depends solely on if you are gaining or losing time. Be sure to ask your doctor before using the supplement.

4. Sleep it off, when the time comes
You get off the plane and want to take a nap, or you plan on hitting the sack well before its even dark out in your new location. But the best advice is to avoid naps on the first few days, and try going to bed at the appropriate time for the location you are in. Taking a flight that arrives in the late afternoon would be most helpful, since you’re likely to be tired from traveling.

5. Start vacation early
If you know that you’re traveling to a destination that has a significant time difference, a great option, if possible, is to arrive a few days earlier before the tour begins, giving you time to adjust and overcome jet lag.

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