We all know that sleep is paramount to our overall health, so what should we do when jet lag throws off our sleep routine?
Jet lag is one of the most common sleep disorders — especially for weekend warriors and those with lots of SkyMiles. When we travel to a new time zone, our internal clock gets confused and doesn’t know how to regulate itself. In other words, instead of operating on the new time zone, your body continues to run on your biological clock.
But jet lag isn’t the only kicker when we travel. Our bodies may also resist sleeping in new environments.
Either way, it can be tough to get a decent night’s sleep when we travel. Luckily, we have four tips to help you stave off jet lag.
1. Work With the Sun
Sunlight helps regulate your biological clock, so if you stay indoors, it’ll worsen your jet lag.
Sunlight acts as a stimulant to reset your biological clock. To help your body adjust to a new time zone, sync up your internal clock with the clock of the new time zone you’re in by spending some time in the sun.
Your body acclimates to a biological clock based on the amount of sunlight your eyes receive. Every 24 hours, your biological light resets based on when the sun comes up.
The more sunlight you take in, the better able your body can regulate its sleep cycle and fend off the dreaded jet lag woes. So, take a walk outside to get your morning coffee rather than making it in the hotel room, or step outside to watch the sunset. Who knew fending off jet lag could also be good for the soul?
2. Avoid Naps
If you just stepped off a redeye, you probably want to crash once you make it to your hotel or Airbnb. But did you know this will worsen your transition into your new time zone?
Naps can have negative effects, especially when it comes to jet lag. Since our bodies are still running on our biological clock, napping leans into this and encourages our bodies to continue to operate on our body’s clock. As a result, it makes it harder to transition to the new time zone.
Aim to stay awake until it’s 10 p.m. in the new time zone as that will make the adjustment process for your body easier. Also, avoid a big meal before your flight ends as that will make it harder to stay awake too. (Pssst: in case you were wondering, no foods have been proven to make jet lag worse!)
Also, think twice before you hit the gym once you land. If exercise makes you sleepy, it’ll make it more challenging to stay awake. But if exercise invigorates you and gives you energy, there’s no harm, no foul!
3. Steer Clear of Caffeine
Just as you should steer clear of caffeine 3–4 hours before bed, you should apply the same common sense nighttime rules to your bedtime routine in your new time zone.
Caffeine acts as a stimulant, which prevents sleep and keeps our minds busy. If you drink caffeine, your body will only further delay it’s sleep cycle, which can make it difficult to hit the pillows once it is time to fall asleep.
4. Make Your Hotel Room Feel Like Home
According to a Purple survey, 37% of respondents cite a hotel’s mattress as the most important factor in choosing a hotel. For many people, an unfamiliar mattress can mean the difference between a solid 8–12 hours of sleep and a measly 2–4 hours of sleep.
Beyond jet lag, travel-induced stress conditions like the “first night effect” and the “on-call effect” make it difficult for people to fall asleep in environments they aren’t familiar with.
Here’s a breakdown of effects:
First night effects: Difficulty falling asleep in a new place.
On-Call effect: Inability to fall asleep based on the worry that something out of your control will wake you up (e.g., hallway noise, cars honking, etc.)
To help mitigate the stressors that come with sleeping in an unfamiliar environment, try these four tips:
- Prepare for things that you know might disturb your sleep (e.g., close drapes, request a new pillow, etc.).
- Bring familiar objects from home, such as a pillow or blanket.
- Wear earplugs or a sleep mask.
- Set an alarm in the morning (or request a wake-up call).
- Do some research before you book a hotel room. Read reviews on how thin its walls are, and see if the location is in a busy, potentially loud part of town.
It’s Possible to Sleep Well — Even When You Travel
Before your trip, switch up your sleep cycle to better match the time zone of your final destination. If you’re headed eastward, get up earlier and go to bed earlier several days before your trip. If you’re flying westward, go to bed later and aim to wake up later.
By not letting sleep be an afterthought of your travel plans, you can prepare to get a great night’s rest and wake up feeling refreshed and ready to go — no matter where in the world you are.
It’s National Sleep Awareness Week. To celebrate, we’re giving away a Purple Sleep Suite valued at $5,000, with a Purple mattress, two Purple Pillows, two Plush Pillows, one set of Purple sheets, a duvet, a mattress protector, and the accordion bed frame. Enter at www.purple.com/giveaways.