When travelling, the circadian rhythm in your body can often take a bit of time to adjust – especially if you’re going to or from different time zones. For example, your body may wind up telling you it’s time to go to sleep in the middle of the day when you should and would normally be awake, or you’ll tend to stay awake during the late hours of the night and into the earlier hours of the morning when you should actually be sleeping.
This is known as jet lag – a common sleep disorder that is known to cause a temporary imbalance to your biological clock.
Along with being in different time zones, there are many other factors that play a part in the disruption of your internal clock – such as exposure to sunlight and darkness, rising and falling temperatures, hormone levels, and other biological conditions.
While jet lag isn’t entirely preventable, Dr. Ali Ghahary, a family physician from Vancouver, recommends making a few minor adjustments before planning your next vacation. One way to help you get used to being in another time zone is to get awake and go to bed earlier than you normally would for several days prior to your trip – you could even set your watch to the time zone of the destination in which you are travelling to. When booking a trip, try to choose flights that have early-evening arrival times. You should also avoid alcohol and caffeine, as both of these can act as stimulants to the brain and either keep you from going to sleep or prevent you from staying awake when necessary. They can also make you dehydrated, and dehydration often makes the symptoms of jet lag even worse.
Along with extreme fatigue or insomnia, other common symptoms that someone with jet lag might experience include increased irritability, lack of concentration, stomach upset including diarrhea, constipation, and even headaches.
If you constantly suffer from jet lag, taking a low-dose melatonin supplement – as little as 0.5mg – may help your body send off the signals that it needs to put you to sleep. As always, you should check with your primary healthcare practitioner before taking any kind of supplements or medication designed to help you sleep, as well as check with your local pharmacy to ensure there are no interactions with any medications you may currently be taking.