Don’t let jet lag drag you down

You have places to go and things to see!

Most of us don’t have an infinite number of vacation days. There’s a small window of time for you to tap into your inner world traveler until school or work starts to pull you back to reality. If you have the travel bug, that can be a total bummer.

What’s more of a bummer is when a handful of your valuable vacation days are wasted due to jet lag. You have grand plans to see all the things as soon as you land, but you spend the first 2–3 days in bed trying to adjust your sleep schedule and before you know it, it’s time to turn around and head back home.

To help you make the most of your time off, we’ve asked our doctors how to best manage jet lag so you can spend less time in bed and more time seeing the world.

Let’s start with the basics –– what is jet lag?

“Jet lag is an alteration in circadian rhythm and sleep patterns due to travel through different time zones.” — Dr. Valerie Cacho

Now that we have brushed up on what jet lag actually is, it’s important to brush up on the symptoms so you can remind yourself why you definitely want to avoid it.

“Jet lag occurs when you travel east or westbound. Typically you feel fatigued, mild nausea, and have trouble with sleeping. It lasts a few days, often worse on the first day. Get out into sunlight and take melatonin if you are having trouble sleeping.” — Dr. Sarah Kohl

While sleeping pills and going out and about can help you once you get to your destination, the ideal scenario is preventing jet lag even before it begins. There are a few ways you can help to prevent jet lag, but it really just boils down to changing your schedule and starting the process of adjusting earlier rather than later.

“If you are young, less than 30 or so, a few hours difference won’t bother you much. Going west is less of an issue than heading back east. To prepare: go to bed 45–60 min later each night for few days before heading west or 45–60min earlier each night for few days before heading east. The further you travel, the more hours/days you need to change.” — Dr. Bac Nguyen

Hopefully, you take Dr. Nguyen’s advice and start to prepare your body a few days before getting on a jet plane. However, you can also make a few adjustments during your time in the air which can help as well. For those of you that are seeking last minute travel tips, Dr. Pappas has a few recommendations for you.

“You can help yourself by drinking water, moving around on the plane, staying away from alcohol & caffeine, and adapt to new time zone by being in sunshine. Can use melatonin .3 to 3 mg when you want to sleep." — Dr. Pamela Pappas

There you have it! Whatever your reason for traveling is, we hope you see more than just the inside of your hotel room. Tackle jet lag before it even has a chance to creep up. You don’t want anything holding you back. The world is your oyster!

Author: Maya Gilliss-Chapman

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