The ebb and flow of your body’s cycles – from hormone fluctuations to sleeping patterns — is controlled by complex network of body clocks known as circadian rhythms. When you zoom through different time zones these faithful time keepers often get thrown off course.
That is the reason I started writing this post on jet lag at 5 A.M. After a wonderful week of sightseeing in Italy, my circadian rhythms are convinced we are about to say ciao to the early afternoon rather than arrivederci to the wee hours of the morning.
When circadian clocks experience a huge shift in time, such as traveling between continents, it can take a while for them to rewind to their proper settings. Fortunately there are several ways I’ve found to speed the process along. After scoping the research, here are the things I’ve tried that seem best for beating the wired and tired feeling of jet lag.
While in Italy I’m happy to report my AcaciaTV workouts worked like a charm. Even with spotty hotel WiFi, they streamed perfectly on both my laptop and phone with zero buffering. I mainly chose yoga routines because studies show that stretching, deep breathing and meditation can help beat the effects of jet lag by calming thoughts, increasing oxygen uptake and energizing blood flow. All of these things make you feel better and help normalize the body’s sense of time.
Strength workouts at about 80 percent of maximum effort also seem to reset the body’s clocks. Research done at the University of California suggested that lifting weights can affect the genes responsible for regulating the circadian clocks of muscles independently of what’s happening with the brain’s main timekeeper. Pumping a little iron seems to trick your body into believing it’s morning when it’s actually the afternoon or vice versa.
If you don’t feel like stretching or hitting the weights, consider doing some moderately paced cardio exercise spiked with a few high intensity intervals. Upping the effort of an aerobic workout appears to be another way to reset the genes responsible for sleep regulation, the USCF research showed.
Besides exercise, resting up before a trip can help diminish travel exhaustion. Try getting one or two good nights of sleep prior to take-off. Avoid caffeine, alcohol, and nicotine. They may make you feel more restless. And of course, the worst thing you can do is get on a long flight with a hangover.
If you arrive early in the morning to your destination, get out into direct sunlight as soon as possible. Studies show that basking in natural light shortly upon arrival into a new time zone may help reset your circadian rhythms more quickly. Conversely, if you touch down in the evening, avoid bright light.
Skip the sleeping aids but consider taking a melatonin supplement. Melatonin is a hormone secreted naturally during the hours of darkness to promote sleep. Although research is mixed at this point, some studies show that supplements can help restore sleep patterns.