Jet lag tips
August 24, 2016 | by Meghana Doreswamy MD

More than 231 million passengers will fly between June and August, a 4 percent increase from 2015, according to Airline for America. Flying to and from Seattle often requires crossing different time zones and creates the challenge of jet lag, impacting energy upon arrival, or making a return to work feel more sluggish.

What is jet lag?

Jet lag simply describes a temporary sleep disorder (much easier to say than desynchronosis) that impacts your circadian rhythm. When your body’s internal clock gets out of sync, you may experience symptoms like fatigue, insomnia, concentration difficulty and decreased energy.

These effects can happen to anyone and can last several days as you adjust. Fortunately, there are steps you can take to minimize the effects of jet lag.

Before traveling

  • Exercise.
  • Maintain a healthy diet.
  • Get plenty of rest.
  • Shift your schedule. Go to bed an hour or two later than usual (before traveling west) or earlier than usual (before traveling east).
  • Talk to your doctor about your sleep routine when traveling and if medication may be appropriate.

While traveling

  • Drink plenty of water. Pack an empty water bottle to refill after going through security.
  • Avoid large meals. Opt for smaller more frequent snacks.
  • Minimize alcohol and caffeine. Dehydration can worsen the symptoms of jet lag.
  • Stretch, get up, and walk around periodically during long flights.
  • Sleep on the plane if you can particularly if you’ll be landing in the morning in your new time zone. Bring a pillow or padding to help make your position more comfortable.

After arrival

  • Start easy. Don’t make schedule big plans the first day if possible and minimize the number of decisions to make upon arrival.
  • Get exposure to sunlight. Daylight can stimulate and regulate your biological clock.
  • Take a short nap but only if you are sleepy. Keep your daytime snooze to 30 minutes to minimize disrupting your sleep schedule even more.

Jet lag is temporary. But if you’re a frequent traveler and continually struggle with jet lag, you may benefit from an appointment with a sleep specialist to discuss sleep patterns. Call 206-860-4554 to schedule a consultation at The Polyclinic Sleep Medicine Department.