Up, Up and AWAY!

11 Jun

il_570xN.370110578_1hp1It’s summer and the vacation season has started, which means that you are more than likely in the midst of booking your flight to some getaway location. Perhaps you are planning a wine tasting tour of Italy, a scenic safari through the dunes of Dubai, or maybe even a trip to the beach in Tahiti to soak up the sun. No matter where the destination, don’t let your lack of sleep ruin it. After all, summer vacations are supposed to be all about fun and relaxation, right? One of the most common summertime sleep disorders is jet lag. Jet lag is a sleep disorder that can cause fatigue, disorientation, impaired concentration, lack of appetite, gastrointestinal disturbances, and headaches. It is brought on after traveling huge distances, across several time zones, and can last for days. What causes jet lag? Jet lag happens because rapid travel throws off your body’s natural rhythm or biological clock. “Cues such as light exposure, mealtimes, social engagement, and activities regulate our circadian rhythm,” says Allison T. Siebern, PhD, a fellow in the Insomnia and Behavioral Sleep Medicine Program at the Stanford University Sleep Medicine Center. “When you cross time zones, it disrupts those, and your internal clock and the external times are desynchronized. Your body needs to get on the rhythm of the new time zone.” How can you get away from home and still enjoy your vacation without the dreaded effects of jet lag? Here are a few tips to get you through those summertime, traveling blues.

1. Pre-flight tips:

  • About a week before your trip, slowly start to shift your sleeping and eating schedule to match that of your vacation spot. This will help your body cope with the time change.
  • Make sure that all of your trip preparations are done well ahead of time. You do not want to be stressed right before your trip. Stress can cause your body to produce more adrenaline, which prevents you from sleeping.
  • Make sure that you get plenty of sleep the night before your journey. You want to be well rested since getting quality sleep on a plane can prove difficult for most travelers.

2. All aboard! In flight tips:

  • Change your watch to match your destination’s time zone as soon as you board your flight. “This is mostly psychological,” says Siebern, “but it helps you get into the mind-set of what you’ll be doing in the place where you’re going.” Mimic the time of day at your destination location. If it is nighttime at your destination then sleep and if it is daytime then try to stay awake. This, along with resetting your watch, will help your mind and body prepare for the new time zone.
  • Hydration is key. Make sure to drink plenty of water right before your flight and during your flight. Airplanes are often dry atmospheres, which aid in dehydration. Dehydration can actually cause the same symptoms as jet lag and can add to the fatigue, loss of energy, and headaches that you feel.
  • Minimize sleep distractions. If you are a light sleeper make sure to pack earplugs or headphones, a sleep mask, a pillow, and a blanket for your flight.

3. You’re finally there! Make sure the first day is dedicated to getting your body on track so you can enjoy the rest of your vacation.

  • Watch your food and liquid consumption. Alcohol, caffeine, and large or spicy meals can interfere with a good nights sleep so avoid these your first day in your new location.
  • Make sure that when you are ready to go to sleep that all incoming light in your new location is silenced. Close your curtains, or blinds, and turn off electronics. Light has a direct effect on the body by signaling your brain to wake up and actually stops the body’s production of the sleep hormone, melatonin, which responds to darkness.

Vacation is supposed to be a break from the real world. Don’t let the jet lag interfere! Start planning now so that your vacation will be a true trip to paradise.

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