Sunday, December 24, 2006

Jet lag: How to reduce it

Jet lag affects individuals in different ways and to different degrees. Flying across three or more time zones often disrupts your normal sleep-wake cycle. As a result, your internal body clock wakes you during the night and makes you sleepy during the day. Other symptoms of jet lag include irritability, decreased concentration, dizziness, headaches, muscle soreness, and constipation or diarrhea. These symptoms can be aggravated by stress, lack of sleep, dry air, dehydration and a bumpy airplane ride.

Keep in mind that it generally takes one day at your destination to fully adjust for a one-hour time zone change. Also, the symptoms of jet lag are often worse when traveling eastward rather than westward.

There's no single, proven method for preventing or "curing" jet lag. But there are some things you might try:

-Before your trip, reset your internal clock. Several days before your trip, gradually adjust your sleep schedule to more closely match the time at your destination. For example, if you're traveling eastward, start going to bed an hour earlier every day and getting up an hour earlier.

-Choose a daytime flight when possible to avoid sleep loss and fatigue. Make sure you are well rested and not sleep-deprived before your trip. Also, wear loose, comfortable clothing on your flight so that you can relax and rest more easily.

-During the flight, drink plenty of fluids to stay hydrated and limit alcohol and caffeine. Avoid taking sleeping pills during the flight. If you have trouble sleeping after a few days at your destination, consider taking a mild sleeping pill — unless your doctor advises otherwise.

-When you arrive at your destination, reset your watch to local time. If possible, allow yourself a day or two to acclimate to the time change.

Some research suggests melatonin, an over-the-counter supplement, may help decrease jet lag. You may try taking 1 to 3 milligrams of melatonin at bedtime for several days once you arrive at your destination. However, the benefits of melatonin are often exaggerated. More research is needed to determine its potential benefits and risks.

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