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See Inside Scientific American Mind Volume 25, Issue 4

Five Tips to Beat Jet Lag

With a little preparation, even frequent flyers can keep well rested while traveling
getting over jet lag


Get over jet lag more quickly by scheduling your exposure to light and perhaps taking melatonin at bedtime. 
Credit: Temari 09 via Flickr

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Until the arrival of new treatments based on circadian rhythm science, the best advice for travelers remains the same as it has been for many years: Get over jet lag more quickly by scheduling your exposure to light and perhaps taking melatonin at bedtime.

• If traveling just a few time zones eastward, say three to five hours, seek more light in the morning and none at bedtime when you arrive at your destination. For three to five time zones of westward travel, do the opposite: Ensure that your sleeping area remains dark until it is time to get up, and seek out light in the evening hours when you begin getting sleepy too early.

• If traveling closer to nine or 10 time zones, the opposite recommendation applies. When traveling eastward, keep your mornings darker and your evenings lighter. For westward travel, seek out bright light in the mornings and dark spaces in the evenings before bed.

• In any case, try to adjust your sleep schedule to the hours of your destination as soon as you leave—that means no sleeping on the plane unless it is nighttime at your destination as you fly, and napping only briefly when you arrive if you absolutely need it.

• Melatonin, a natural protein widely available as an over-the-counter supplement, has been shown in some studies to help travelers fall asleep more easily at their destination.

• If you are traveling with young children, the same ideas apply: Help them wake up in the morning or stay awake in the evening with bright light; help them fall asleep at night or stay asleep in the morning with darkness. Even if they wake up too early, keeping the lights low will signal their body that it is not yet morning. In addition, keeping your kids’ daily cues at their regular times will help them adjust more quickly—if nap time is 2PM at home, nap time should be 2PM at your destination.

This article was originally published with the title "Future Drugs for Jet Lag."

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