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Jet lag and circadian rhythms

What is jet lag?

You experience jet lag when you travel across at least two time zones. The severity varies as it depends on how many time zones you've crossed and in what direction - traveling East tends to be worse.

Jet lag is a circadian rhythm disorder. Your circadian rhythms are your bodies natural clocks signaling when you're supposed to feel sleepy or alert. The rhythm is based off a 24-hour period. Once you switch time zones, the rhythm changes cause your body to need time to adjust.

How to prepare

There are some steps you can take to minimize the effects of jet lag before it even happens, such as:

  • Selecting a flight that allows an early evening arrival
  • Go to bed earlier a few days prior to your trip to prevent your body from being shocked
  • Bring objects from home, such as a pillow or blanket to help comfort you and help you sleep easier
  • Bring earplugs and blindfolds to help you deal with unwanted noises and light

Things to avoid

While jet lag isn't avoidable when traveling, there are things that make it worse, such as air pressure. There are also factors that you may be able to avoid.

Jet lag can be worsened by:

  • Sitting - Spending a long amount of time sitting in an uncomfortable position. If possible, stand up after periods of time and walk.
  • Stress - Trying to stay awake because to ensure you won't miss a stop won't allow you to sleep. Instead, ask for a wake-up call or set multiple alarms.
  • Caffeine and alcohol use
  • Upon arrival, avoid eating a heavy meal
  • Avoid heavy exercise near bedtime

Tired of not getting a good night's sleep?

Make an appointment with a primary care provider and ask for a referral to Dr. Scott Johnson at Crossing Rivers Health Center for Specialty Care.

Request appointment

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