Crossing time zones can throw off your body’s internal clock (also known as your circadian rhythm) and interfere with your ability to sleep well. The more time zones you traverse, the more challenging it can be for your body to adjust to the new local time. What’s more, your chances of experiencing sleep difficulties are greater when you travel from west to east, because it’s harder to move your sleep time earlier than it is to delay it. Fortunately, you can use these four steps to reset your body clock when time traveling.
- Adjust your sleep schedule ahead of time.For three to five days before your trip, shift your bedtime and awakening time either earlier or later each day to help your body’s internal clock move closer to your destination’s time zone by your day of arrival. Making this change can help prevent or minimize jet lag
- Expose yourself to light strategically.If it’s daylight when you arrive at your destination, take a brisk walk outdoors to shift your body clock to the new time zone. Do your best to avoid taking a nap (or at least limit it to 20 minutes). During your first few days there, try to get 15 to 30 minutes of direct sunlight exposure right after you wake up in the morning.
- Downshift in the evenings.If it’s nighttime when you arrive, dim your lights, eat lightly, and engage in relaxing activities to set the stage for a good night’s sleep.Bring an eye mask and earplugs in case you need them to create the right mood to snooze.
- Consider taking melatonin. Taking melatonin, a natural sleep aid, a few hours before your desired bedtime may help sync your body’s circadian rhythm to the new time zone. It can be especially helpful for adults who are crossing five or more time zones because it can help put you in the mood to snooze—at the right time. But always speak with your doctor before trying any supplement or drug.
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