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Between the possibilities of delayed (or canceled) flights, busy airports and lost luggage plus all the preparation it takes to catch a plane, flying is seldom an effortless, stress-free affair. Topping off the list, especially for those struggling with insomnia, is the added issue of jet lag. Flying commonly interferes with our normal schedules and sleep patterns, so give these tips a try if you are visiting a new time zone. Although they may not work for everyone, they might keep you out of the dreaded jet lag “fog” so that you can enjoy your vacation without the need for a daily siesta or caffeine jitters.
Get ahead of schedule
You can stay a step ahead of jet lag by adjusting to the time zone you will be visiting prior to traveling in order to prepare your body and mind for the change. To help you transition when flying east, try setting your bedtime an hour earlier than usual for a few nights before you travel and on the other hand, try staying up later a few nights prior to flying west. Bear in mind that it’s important to make these adjustments in gradual steps over a couple of days to reap the benefits, and be aware that this tactic is most helpful when you will be at your destination longer than two days.
Lavender essential oil
A proven sleep aid, lavender essential oil has been shown to work as a mild, sleep-inducing sedative which can contribute to more restful sleep and help users feel more alert the following day. Unleashing the power of lavender aromatherapy can help you relax when trying to sleep away from home, so take along a bottle of lavender oil or mist and place a few drops or spritzes on your pillow to help lull you to blissful sleep.
Make a date with the sun
It is common to feel drowsy the day after you arrive when flying west to east, so in addition to logging as much sleep time as possible the previous night, get yourself out in the daylight. Early light exposure is key, so if the sun isn’t up yet when you first arise, turn on a bright lamp, or go out and take a walk in the sunshine. And while a nap may sound tempting, try to resist because they can lengthen the effects of jet lag. Conversely, late-afternoon sun can help you reset if you have flown from east to west and get there in the afternoon, as long as you can stay awake at least until your regular east-coast bedtime.
Melatonin, a naturally-occurring hormone that keeps the body’s sleep-wake cycle in balance, can also be purchased as a supplement. The body’s level goes up once the sun is down, peaks overnight, and goes back down in the morning. Melatonin has been found to reduce jet lag in certain studies, so experts suggest taking it after dark on the evening of your travel day, plus the next few following days. Make sure to talk to your doctor before giving it a try, however, as it can disturb sleep patterns if taken incorrectly or interact with medications.
Prescription sleep medications
While you should become familiar with sleeping pills at home instead of taking one for the first time during a flight, prescription or over-the-counter sleep aids can be useful when you want to arrive at your destination feeling rested. Be sure to check with your doctor first.