How to cope with jet lag

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Sleep difficulties are a nuisance that traveling across time zones can often trigger. “This is because a steady daily rhythm is one of the most important building blocks of sound sleep,” says Mikael Sallinen, a researcher at the Finnish Institute of Occupational Health and one of Finland’s leading sleep experts.

There is no magic trick to make our bodies skip time zones without side effects. However, adapting can be faster and easier by following a few tips:

1 Mini-workouts

In addition to a regular daily rhythm, one of the most important elements affecting sleep is exercise. 
“It’s human to find an excuse for skipping exercise when traveling. That’s why a workout has to be easy to start and execute,” says Sallinen. 
 
Many small spurts are just as effective as one official workout. Grab opportunities where you can: walk instead of taking a taxi, or stand instead of sitting down. Follow live-stream yoga or pilates classes on yoogaia.com or try the countless free videos on YouTube. If you travel regularly, ask a personal trainer to customize a hotel room workout for you.
 
But if you are experiencing severe sleep deprivation, it is better to rest than exercise, Sallinen recommends.

2 Protein boost

Nutritional needs are very individual, but according to Sallinen there is a simple rule that works for most travelers: foods rich in protein (such as chicken, turkey, fish, plain yogurt) and slow-digesting carbohydrates (whole wheat pasta, brown rice, green leafy vegetables, nuts) are a good choice. 
 
They keep blood sugar levels steady and keep you energized more effectively than foods rich in fat or fast digesting carbohydrates. They also help you maintain your body weight in the long run.

3 Keep stress at bay

Stress and sleep difficulties tend to go hand-in-hand. “According to the latest research, certain ways of dealing with stress are more likely to increase insomnia: these include substance use and trying to suppress feelings of stress,” says Sallinen.
 
Instead, a mindfulness-based view on stress and an active, result-oriented approach is beneficial. Accept how you feel right now, and if you want things to be better in the future, start taking action.

4 Reset your clock

A few days before departure, start syncing your schedule with your destination’s time zone. Every day when you go to bed and wake up, move your schedule 15 to 30 minutes towards the desired one. This will allow you to get a one or two-hour headstart on adjusting to the new time zone.
 
When you reach your destination, the main factor influencing your time zone transition is the lack or presence of daylight.
 
“It might come as a surprise that if you arrive very early or late in the day, it may not be a good idea to get out in the sun,” says Sallinen.
 
Entrain, an iPhone and Android app developed at the University of Michigan, will help you calculate an optimal lighting schedule.
 
For our list of sleep-boosting gadgets, please refer to the December issue of Blue Wings magazine.
 
Text by Kati Heikinheimo
Photo by iStock
 
This article was originally published in Finnair's Blue Wings magazine (December 2014).
 
 
 
 

 

Published December 12, 2014

Category: Collaboration

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