It’s summertime, and many of us will be flying off to distant locations. The experience “over there” will be exhilarating no doubt, but flying through time zones in rapid succession can wreak havoc on your sleep — and therefore on your daytime wakefulness and fun.
Changing time zones is one of the easiest ways to mess up a normal sleep pattern. Your body is accustomed to making melatonin at a certain circadian rhythm point, and when you’re three, six, nine or 16 hours removed, your body’s rhythm becomes discombobulated.
What to do?
There are, fortunately, steps you can take. One is to try to adjust your body’s circadian rhythm in advance by staying up later or going to bed earlier, as the case may be. As soon as you get on the plane, adjust your watch to the new time zone — and then don’t nap or sleep if at all possible. Force yourself to need sleep.
Also, drink plenty of liquids to avoid dehydration because dehydration is going to disrupt your sleep. When you get to your new destination, deprive yourself of sleep the first night by getting, say, just a couple of hours of a lengthy nap (depending, of course, on where and when you arrive at your destination).
Another good key to re-adapting your circadian clock is by taking a long morning walk in the sun — soak it in so your body senses the new time zone. And, though it may sound juvenile, take along your own pillow, blanket and cuddly to recreate your home environment as much as possible.
As always, good sleep hygiene is essential. Make sure your room is dark, quiet and comfortably cool (at least 75 or lower) — even if you have to request a remote, corner room in the hotel in advance. Use an eye mask if necessary to keep light from the street from reaching you. Earplugs might also be in order.
And there’s always melatonin — take along some tablets if you like to help you sleep when it’s time for bed and rejuvenation.
Bottom line, no matter where you are, good sleep-hygiene habits are your best bet for successful rest and rejuvenation. Don’t overdo it on food and drink and be moderate in the demands on your body. You’ll have a better vacation if you do.