It’s vacation time, baby. You just flew hours from home, over an ocean and multiple time zones, to reach a new locale. You’re rearing to check out the new culture, walk around, see the sites and taste test the local cuisine. Oh wait. No you’re not. That old crook - jet lag - stole hours from your regular schedule. Even though the sun’s high in the sky at your new destination, you’re ready to climb into bed.
Jet lag throws your internal clock, which regulates your sleep and wake cycles, out of whack. That’s why even though it’s your second day in Paris, you still have that just-downed-a-triple-espresso feeling at 3 a.m. local time.
Your internal clock works by regulating how much melatonin (a hormone that controls your sleep and wake cycles) your body produces. Typically melatonin levels begin to rise in the late evening, remain high during the night and drop in the early morning. But if you’re switching over multiple time zones and hanging out in a closed-in airplane cabin that lacks natural light, your body gets all kinds of confused.
Jet lag can cause daytime fatigue, disturbed sleep, difficulty concentrating, muscle soreness and can make you feel, well, just all-around yucky. If you traveled east, where you “lose” hours, you’re especially susceptible to jet lag’s symptoms. So how do you keep from sleeping away your precious vacation hours, or doing nothing except staring at your hotel ceiling counting sheep throughout the night? Try these natural remedies to outsmart jet lag.
Ways to reset your clock:
Melatonin supplements: Melatonin works with your body’s internal clock. If you take melatonin supplements, you can essentially outfox jet lag and “reset” your clock. Your body treats melatonin as a darkness trigger, which is why melatonin is often used as a sleep aid. Be sure to take the supplements at the correct time, to get the benefit that you need. Consult your doctor on dosages and to learn the best time of day to take the supplements.
Sunlight: All natural sunlight can help beat down jet lag. Plan ahead to use sunlight to adjust your body both before you leave and during your stay. To orient yourself to your new time zone, expose yourself to the sun’s cheerful rays during prime local daytime hours. This powerful natural tool will help your body retune itself. Avoiding daylight can be just as important as taking it in, though. If you're having a hard time shaking your restlessness, begin to avoid daylight in the early evening until your sleep pattern becomes adjusted to the local time. Shut the curtains in your hotel room to make it as dark as possible or try a sleep mask. (They look good. Promise.)
Caffeine: Okay, caffeine addicts. Don’t go crazy with this one. If you’re feeling a lot of fatigue during the day, try giving yourself a little energy boost with a cup of coffee. A pick-me-up here and there isn’t bad, but listen to your body. If you need to sleep, you should probably do it, even if it means missing that fourth tour.
For more tips on healthy traveling, check out 9 Habits of the Healthy Traveler.
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