Traveling to a new destination can be exciting and full of adventures. However, jetting to new locations can be a quick way to upset your sleep schedule, no matter how fun the destination.
Everyone has an optimal time period where our bodies need to sleep and recover from the day. This is called your circadian window, which runs between 11 PM to 7 AM for most people. A prime time to disrupt this window is whenever you cross time zones.
Whether you are traveling for fun or work, here are a few ways to improve sleep while on the go.
1) Try Sleep Supplements
If you talk to a frequent traveler, they might recommend some vitamins to help you sleep. Melatonin is a natural hormone that increases about two hours before bedtime to prepare for rest. If you are traveling between time zones, your body may need a nudge to know it is time for bed. Sleep vitamins with melatonin are a great way to do this.
Sleep supplements will help your body produce natural melatonin at the right time even when your schedule is off. Melatonin does not cure jet-lag, but it will help your internal clock adjust.
2) Get Strategic
If you are going to be traveling extensively, start adjusting your schedule prior to departure. Three days before leaving, change your bedtime to an hour earlier or later based on the time zone you are headed to. Add another hour on night two and a third the day before departure. It normally takes one day per time zone for your body to adjust, so this strategic sleeping can help with the transition.
3) Implement the Two-Day Rule
Now, if you are only going for a short period of time, you may not need to alter your schedule at all. Generally, if you are staying somewhere less than two days, stick to your normal schedule. By the time your body adjusts, it will be time to go home.
Try to plan any meetings or obligations to the same equivalent waking hours of home.
4) Get into Local Flow
So, that ten-hour plane ride might seem like prime sleeping time, but even this should be planned with your destination in mind. When you land, resist the urge to run out and explore or fall into bed. If you land in the middle of the day, stay awake upon landing and sleep on the plane. If you land at night, stay awake on the plane and sleep when you land.
Basically, be ready to jump into whatever part of the day your destination is in.
5) Find the Right Light
If you are traveling east in the morning hours, bring sunglasses to minimize exposure to sunlight. You want the most sunlight in the late morning or early afternoon in order to adjust your circadian rhythm to the new time zone.
Blocking that early light will help your clock recalibrate to the new bedtime hours. Westward travel is less disruptive, but early evening light exposure will help push the rhythm until later.
6) Stay on the Move
Just as it is important to fall asleep at the right time, it is also important to wake your body up at the right time. Start your day with some morning exercise or a warm shower. This signals to your brain that it is time to move and increases your core body temperature to trigger your circadian rhythm. Waking up at the right time will help your body adjust and be ready to fall asleep at the right time later on in the day.
While there’s no magic pill that prevents jet lag, it’s possible to combat the onset of fatigue with these six tips.
If you need some more help, consider reaching out to an expert traveler to hear what they have to say!