Planning a little time (zone) travel soon? Here's a summary of current research on how to get your body's internal clock synchronized.
Jet lag can suck the fun out of the first few days of an international trip, but it doesn’t have to.
Most people have their own strategies for dealing with the fatigue and confusion associated with jumping across time zones, but researchers are trying to figure out what works best. The Wall Street Journal rounded up what researchers currently know and believe about it. For instance:
- Some people barely experience it, while symptoms are more severe for others. It seems that young people, whose internal clocks are still developing, and older people, whose adjust more slowly, are affected more.
- Traveling east seems to hit us harder than traveling west. That’s probably because it’s a lot easier to stay up later than it is to force yourself to sleep earlier than you normally would.
It seems that a mix of strategies works best at reducing jet lag. Here’s what researchers WSJ talked to recommend:
- In the days prior to a trip to a more eastern time zone, try compensating by going to bed an hour earlier than the previous night and getting up an hour earlier.
- Talk to your physician about taking a melatonin supplement prior to bedtime in your new environment.
- Eat when the locals do, even if you aren’t hungry.
- “Traveling east, it is generally advised to avoid morning light; going west, avoid afternoon light,” the Journal says. That will help your clock reset.
Ultimately, you should use the strategies that work for you. Not everybody is an early riser, needs the same amount of sleep, or spends the same amount of time outdoors in bright sunlight. But research suggests these methods of coping work for many people and are at least worth trying.