Spring has finally arrived! That means millions of us will be packing our bags and heading out this season. If you’re one of the 35% of Americans taking a family vacation this year, chances are you’d want to be as prepared as can be before you head out.
When preparing a vacation, you want the assurance that it will be as smooth and comfortable as possible. Many quite often forget the biggest vacation killer, jet lag, can and should be taken into deliberation before leaving on holiday. Although jet lag is not 100% preventable, it is certainly 100% manageable.
- Adjust your sleeping patterns before you go
When traveling over two or more time zones your body’s natural sleep schedule, also known as our circadian rhythms, will be temporarily out of sync. If you are traveling east you will be losing hours of sleep, and if west you will gain hours. If traveling east, and depending on how many hours you may lose, do try to arrange your sleep schedules an hour before for each time zone you might lose. For instance, if you are going from New York to London, try sleeping five hours earlier than you normally would for at least a few days. The opposite would help if traveling west, say from New York to San Francisco you would actually gain three hours of sleep. Changing your sleep patterns in advance would minimize the effects of jet lag and make adjusting to your new time zone less unpleasant.
2. Adjust Your Light Exposure
As you now know, circadian rhythms are in charge of our internal sleep schedules. Light, whether it be natural or artificial, has a direct impact on this natural cycle. When done correctly, you can use light to help you prep your body for your upcoming trip.
When traveling west you’ll need a greater amount of light exposure in the evenings. If you are traveling east, you will need to increase light exposure earlier in the morning or afternoon. If you are traveling across more than six time zones, your body will need some extra prep to adjust, so plan accordingly.
If you are finding it difficult to control the amount of light you are either receiving or not, a light box might just solve that problem for you. Many people turn to light boxes to help fight seasonal depression, but countless others use it to help their bodies get used to new time zones. Light boxes can quickly increase our levels of alertness, making your vacation responsibilities run more smoothly. This should have a direct and positive impact on your mood. If you’re worried about carrying around a chunky box with you, no worries. There are plenty of cell-phone-sized light box products that are travel friendly.
3. Rest up on your flight
Try to sleep in flight as much as you would in a 24 hour time period if on a longer flight. For a flight to Europe, all it takes is a few hours sleep to help you be functional when you land until local bedtime at your destination. Depending on the length of your trip, consider investing in first-class tickets so you have more reclining space, and if you don’t have that luxury, consider bringing padding like pillows or blankets to make your seating area as comfortable and conducive to sleep as possible. Regardless of flight duration though, you should use the flight to rest and reset. Any sleep is better than no sleep!
4. Picking the right accommodations
Undoubtedly, the activity you will generally be doing most in your quarters is catching up on some much-needed rest after a busy day of sightseeing or business. Either way you will want to make sure that where you lay your head down at night (or morning if suffering terribly from jet lag) is not only comfortable, but worth the price you are paying to stay there. You want to check into a hotel with the best sleep environment per room, especially when it comes to the mattresses. According to Sleep.org, the following hotels are notorious for having the most comfortable beds and quality mattresses: Westin, Four Seasons, W, Hilton, Marriott, Radisson, and Ritz-Carlton. When evaluating hotel sleep environments and mattresses, consider how you sleep, if you have back pain, if you sleep hot, or have some other comfort preference so you get your best sleep every night of your trip.
When on the road, your first two days of travel don’t have to be plagued with jet lag. Following these steps you can make and behavioral adjustments needed to keep the effects of jet lag at bay.