Jet lag can make you feel miserable and ruin a vacation, but there is a quick and simple fix
et lag happens when we travel through several time zones without time to adjust. Traveling from west to east or vice – versa causes the worst type of jet lag. This problem occurs because we throw our circadian rhythm out of sync when traveling too fast through time zones around the globe.
Our internal clock knows when is time to sleep and when is time to awake. Several hormones are released when you need to sleep, as well as when you need to be awake.
When you cross over 2 – 3 time zones there is only a minor adjustment to be made. But when you cross over 9 – 12 hours and many time zones you’re pushing the envelope. To make matters worse, you are going to be in a entire new place spending lot’s of energy. You’re going to be eating all kinds of new foods that can upset our stomach as well. But nothing compares to loosing your sleep, which will also happen big time.
THE PROBLEM WITH JET LAG
A typical trip to Europe from the United States takes 9 – 12 hour flight east and that will basically turn your sleeping clock upside down. In other words – when you go to sleep your internal clock says wake up; and when you suppose to be awake, your body says, go to sleep.
Now you’re 5 days into your vacation and you hardly slept, and during the day you can’t stay awake. it is like a candle burning from both sides. You’re not getting any sleep at night and you’re are awake when you should be sleeping. Soon you start to feel dysphoria. In simple and plain English: You fell like crap.
You cannot enjoy anything because you feel miserable but keep pushing due to excitement; you simply don’t want to loose any precious vacation time. You could get either sick or very cranky, or both. You can’t even think well and that can even be dangerous. But there a simple fix for this problem.
Yes, take naps. Sounds obvious right? But most people don’t do it because they are too busy visiting and walking around. Most people have a tendency to think that if they keep pushing, they’ll sleep well at night. How do I know that? Because I’ve tried.
there is a reason why naps work better than anything else other people recommend online. Yes, drinking water, using melatonin, eating healthy foods helps but will not solve your problem because what your body craves is the hormonal balance that only sleeping will give. Allow your body to have what it needs, even though in small increments. It will cut through your jet lag like butter.
Our body can work well just sleeping in small increments. In fact, sleeping 7 – 8 hours every night is a modern habit. Mankind in the past slept in increments. People of the 1800’s woke up in the middle of the night and had a break, then went back to sleep and they took lot’s of naps.
Think of naps as intermittent sleeping (an alternative type of sleep), it can be useful in other occasions. This is very simple, when you feel an uncontrollable urge to sleep – take a nap and don’t fight the sleepiness. It doesn’t have to be a long nap. In fact, when you’re that tired, you can take a 15 min. nap just about anywhere. You just lay your head down and you’re take a refreshing nap.
Just put yourself in a comfortable position, maybe in the back of a car, or back at the hotel or Air B&B. Explain to your friends and family that you need a 15 – 20 minute nap. You only need one or two naps a day. You might also get your family and friends to also take a collective nap.
Naps are so powerful they will make you feel good for hours and hours (hence the name power naps). Don’t think for a moment that if you keep pushing, you’re feel very tired and fall asleep at night. It will not happen, because your body has a program that will kick in saying it is time to wake up.
OTHER THINGS YOU CAN DO
There are many tip lists out there, just google it, but I find them of little use for you vacation problem right now. You can try regulating your sleep before you travel, drinking lots of water, eating carbs at night so on and so forth. Nothing will come close to the effects of power naps produce.
However one technique that will truly work is to start simulating the sleeping pattern of the time zone before you travel. You do that by basically staying awake at night and sleeping during the day. You have to do that for at least a week. If you’re a nurse you work the night shift for a week. If your not, tough luck. But If you’re reading this at your Air B&B, is too late.
Let’s face it, once you trow you circadian rhythm out of whack there is little you can do to fix it. You just have to wait until you’re back home and your life resumes as usual. Naps will actually give you power boosts while you’re in chaos city. Vacations cannot be regulated or monitored – that’s why you went on vacation, so you could relax. Go ahead relax and take power naps. For more information watch the video bellow. Have a great vacation!
This article was written in Paris during my last vacation
- Naps, cognition and performance
- Jet Lag and Travel Fatigue: A Comprehensive Management Plan for Sport Medicine Physicians and High-Performance Support Teams
- Jet lag: trends and coping strategies