Correcting Your Circadian Rhythm: Jet Lag Tips for Pilots, Flight Attendants and Frequent Travelers

Although sleep experts say the problem is temporary, jet lag can be a nightmare for anyone who travels. Flight attendants, pilots and those who travel across times zones are especially susceptible to the troubling sleep disorder. Fortunately, there are a number of techniques one can use to correct their circadian rhythm and get back on a good sleep track.

What is jet lag?

Jet lag is a temporary sleep disorder that’s caused by changing time zones. Persons traveling eastward tend to be more affected than those moving in a westerly direction. This happens when the body’s internal rhythms are still in sync with the location where travel originated. Symptoms of jet lag typically show up a day after arrival in a new time zone, and recovery may take as many as 24 hours per time zone crossed, says Mayo Clinic.

Something called an internal circadian biological clock regulates periods of wakefulness and sleepiness throughout the day. In adults, this natural rhythm ebbs and increases at various times of the day. The most powerful sleep drive generally occurs between 2:00-4:00 a.m. and between 1:00-3:00 p.m

How to know if you have jet lag

If you’ve recently traveled over two or more time zones, chances are good that you have jet lag. Typical symptoms of the generally temporary sleep disorder include trouble falling asleep, feelings of tiredness and disorientation, inability to function during ‘normal’ daylight hours and a mild feeling of malaise, says the American Academy of Sleep Medicine. Stomach problems, digestive disorders, and menstrual disruption are other common symptoms of jet lag.

How to overcome jet lag

Most persons who suffer from travel associated jet lag do not require medical intervention. By planning ahead and following a few post-arrival travel tips, jet-lagged travelers may significantly reduce their chances of circadian rhythm disruption.

Start easing yourself into a different sleep pattern a few weeks before your trip. Depending on where you’re going to travel, go to bed a few minutes earlier or later each night, and wake up a few minutes earlier or later, as well. Use the Alarm Clock for Me app to rouse yourself from dreamland in a gentle manner.

By the time you arrive at your destination, your circadian clock will be aligned with the new time zone, says the National Sleep Foundation. Other techniques that may help you adjust your body clock include exposing yourself to local sunlight as soon as you arrive at your destination. Opening a hotel room window and taking a stroll in the sun are good ideas. Small doses of melatonin supplements can help you fall asleep and stay asleep at home or while on vacation.

There is a big beautiful world to see and plenty of places to go. Don’t skip travel just because you have trouble sleeping in a new time zone. Practice the above tips, and you could fix your jet lag problem.

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