Traveling across several time zones quickly takes a toll on the body and mind. In general, it takes about one day to recover for each time zone crossed. While you can’t prevent the disruption to your internal clock, using natural light strategically for jet leg treatment will help reduce the effects and the amount of time it takes to recover.
Causes of Jet Lag
Jet lag occurs when you cross two or more time zones quickly because it throws off your circadian rhythm. The cabin pressure inside planes may aggravate the effects of jet lag because the higher altitude lowers the amount of oxygen in the blood. Failing to remain properly hydrated during a flight may also increase jet lag symptoms. By using the right type of lighting at the right time of day before, during and after a flight, you’ll prepare your body and mind for the time difference.
Jet Lag Treatment Tips Using Natural Light
Be mindful of the time at your final destination when you arrive at the airport. If you’re traveling east, for example, and it’s already evening or nighttime at your destination, consider using sunglasses at the airport and on the plane to expose your eyes to less bright light. Draw the shade over the window, if possible.
When traveling west, leave the shade on the window up, if possible. Exposing yourself to natural light will slow the production of melatonin.
Sleep on the plane during long flights. Set your watch to your destination’s time before the plane takes-off. When it’s nighttime at your destination, try to sleep as much as you can on the plane to help your body get used to the time difference. Use foam earplugs and a comfortable eye mask to block out light. If there is an in-flight meal or snack during the time that you want to sleep, ask the flight attendant to save it for you if you are sleeping to reduce interruptions.
Plan what to do for the time following your airplane’s arrival. If you land at night, plan to sleep once you arrive. If it’s daytime, plan your day so you remain busy until late evening. Weather permitting, plan activities that are outside to help keep you energized and awake. If you feel as if you need to nap to make up for lost sleep, limit it to 45 minutes so you don’t experience difficulties falling asleep at night.
Use natural light and light therapy products to adjust your circadian rhythm gently. When traveling east, seek morning light and avoid light in the late afternoon. Conversely, avoid bright morning light when travels take you west, but expose yourself to plenty of afternoon light. During the fall and winter, when the days are shorter, a light therapy product will help you get the appropriate amount of light at the right times of day.
Preparing for a time difference when you travel allows you to enjoy your destination more and feel less uncoordinated. Frequent travelers often rely on high performance light therapy products, like Nature Bright’s Sun Bliss, to help them prepare for a trip and adjust to new time zones. If you experience particular difficulties with time zone changes, consult a sleep specialist regarding the best jet lag treatment for you.
[Photo from Shaun Fisher via CC License 2.0]