Jet Lag and Sleep

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Whether you're a "Road Warrior" who has piled up thousands of Frequent Flier Miles, or someone who is planning a vacation to a distant location, you are likely to experience the phenomenon of "jet lag," which can have a profound effect on your sleep and alertness. Every day, millions of travelers struggle against one of the most common sleep disorders — jet lag. For years, jet lag was considered merely a state of mind. Now, studies have shown that the condition actually results from an imbalance in our body's natural "biological clock" caused by traveling to different time zones. Basically, our bodies work on a 24-hour cycle called " circadian rhythms ." These rhythms are measured by the distinct rise and fall of body temperature, plasma levels of certain hormones and other biological conditions. All of these are influenced by our exposure to sunlight and help determine when we sleep and when we wake.

When traveling to a new time zone, our circadian rhythms are slow to adjust and remain on their original biological schedule for several days. This results in our bodies telling us it is time to sleep, when it's actually the middle of the afternoon, or it makes us want to stay awake when it is late at night. This experience is known as jet lag.

TREATMENT:

Some simple behavioral adjustments before, during and after arrival at your destination can help minimize some of the side effects of jet lag.

  • Select a flight that allows early evening arrival and stay up until 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.)
  • 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.
  • Avoid alcohol or caffeine at least three to four hours before bedtime. Both act as "stimulants" and prevent sleep.
  • Upon arrival