Beat Vacation Jet Lag

On The Quick

Beat Vacation Jet Lag

Try these tips from the experts

By Working Nurse
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Summer is here, kids are out of school and many nurses are looking forward to using some vacation time. If you’re planning any long-distance travel in the near future, try these tips for minimizing jet lag.

Using Melatonin

“Jet lag” is what happens when travel across time zones leaves your body’s natural sleep cycle out of step with local time. It can make business trips miserable and put a real damper on vacation fun. 

Fortunately, melatonin, the hormone the body releases to regulate sleep, is now available over the counter. Melatonin supplements won’t eliminate jet lag, but can help you adjust more quickly when you arrive.

So can sunlight, which is what regulates your body’s own melatonin production. Alon Avidan, M.D., MPH, director of the UCLA Sleep Disorders Center, recommends tailoring your use of melatonin and your sun exposure to your direction of travel:

• If you’re heading WEST, try to get natural sunlight in the afternoon or early evening when you arrive and take a low-dose (0.5 mg or less) melatonin supplement during the latter part of the night. 

• If you’re heading EAST, get plenty of sunlight in the morning at your destination and take a melatonin supplement at normal bedtime (local time).

If you’re traveling over eight or more time zones, the experts at Mayo Clinic suggest that you initially minimize sunlight exposure in the very early morning or close to nightfall so that you don’t accidentally trick your body into mistaking dusk for dawn.

Additional Tips

Other things you can do to reduce jet lag suffering are to adjust your bedtime for a few days before the trip (earlier for east, later for west) and schedule your travel so that you arrive in the early evening local time.  If you can, avoiding sleeping en route unless it’s nighttime at your destination.

Also, don’t drink alcohol on the plane and try to stay hydrated. Some research now suggests that dehydration may make jet lag worse.  Of course, the best thing you can do is to allow yourself a day or so to adjust to local time before diving into activities like tours — and before heading back to work when you get home. 

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