Being tired is nothing compared to being jet lagged. You feel like you’re walking through a haze, even though it’s 2pm in the afternoon. But the same time, when you lay your head on the pillow at night, you just can’t fall asleep. Your body is confused and you’re paying the price. Jet lag is one of the unfortunate realities of travel. Though it’s difficult to avoid completely, you can do a lot to speed up your recovery. With these tips, you can recover from jet lag in as little as just one day, rather than living in up to a week in sleep deprivation.
A Quick Crash Course: What is Jet Lag?
Your body has an internal clock that regulates when it should wake up and when it should go to sleep. This internal clock is called your circadian rhythm. It uses a series of different hormones and neurotransmitters to tell your body when to feel awake and when to feel sleepy.
Believe it or not, you don’t actually have to fly to experience jet lag. If you stay up partying for two or three days, your body will also get completely confused. Anything you do that throws your body off its normal sleep schedule can cause jet lag as your circadian rhythm struggles to find its balance.
So what do you do when your circadian rhythm gets thrown off?
Sunlight: Your #1 Ally
Your most important ally in combating jet lag is sunlight. In the wild, your body’s only real sign of whether it was daytime or nighttime was sunlight. For millions of years, that’s all your body relied on – Not clocks, not appointments and certainly not computers.
Your body is programmed to respond to sunlight. Sun means day and dark means night. The best way to reset your circadian rhythm therefore is to get yourself in sunlight as early in the day as possible.
Wake up as early as you can, then spend at least one hour in direct sunlight. If you burn easily, put on some sunscreen. If you do this for just a couple days, you’ll very quickly find the effects of jet lag fading.
Likewise, it really helps to reduce the amount of light in your room at night. Try to turn off all small electronic lights, such as the light on your cell phone charger or your laptop. Close the curtains and make the room as dark as possible to signal to your body that it’s night time.
Give Your Body a Melatonin Boost
Melatonin is your body’s primary “sleepiness regulator.” When your body thinks it’s time to sleep, it releases melatonin in your brain to make you sleepy. Unfortunately, when your circadian rhythm is off, this doesn’t happen.
One way to help make sleep easier is to help your body release melatonin. You can do this by eating a bowl of cherries before bed. Cherries are the only natural food that contains enough melatonin to make a measurable difference. Eat a bowl before bed three nights in a row and you’ll find yourself falling asleep much more easily.
Reduce Caffeine Intake
If you’re a coffee drinker, make it a point to drink only in the morning and not in the afternoon. If you generally drink two cups a day, try to drink both cups as early in the day as possible. People often underestimate how long caffeine can stay in the system. Trace amounts of caffeine can be detected in a person’s system as long as 12 hours after drinking. That means if you drink a cup of coffee at noon, that can prevent you from sleeping at midnight.
Exercise, Exercise, Exercise
Exercising helps combat jet lag in two important ways.
First, it gives you a boost of energy and vitality. This helps combat that feeling of extreme exhaustion that often comes with jet lag. It’ll help give you enough energy to function throughout the day.
Second, it’ll make your body much more tired. You won’t notice this throughout the day, but it’ll make it a lot easier to fall asleep at night. When you lie down in bed and relax, your body will be much more likely to effortlessly slip into sleep.
These are a few quick and completely natural ways to get rid of jet lag.