Time to Put These Jet Lag Myths to Sleep

When you travel between time zones, your internal biological clock stays behind where you started. The disconnect between your biological clock and the clock at your destination produces the inevitable zombie-like state known as jet lag. You can fight jet lag both on the ground before you leave and in the air while you fly. Recognizing some of the myths surrounding jet lag is a good place to start.

Myth: Sleep (or rather the lack of it) causes jet lag.

Travelers don’t suffer because they have to get up early for their international flight and can’t catch any sleep on the long flight over.

“Jet lag occurs when we experience a desynchronization between our internal body clock and the external time clock of our destination. Symptoms of this desynchronization include fatigue, difficulty sleeping, difficulty concentrating, indigestion, and a negative mood,” said Natalie D. Dautovich, an Environmental Scholar at the National Sleep Foundation.

Myth: Book a nighttime flight to help you sleep.

Skip the overnight flight and book one for daytime. Flying then means you’ll arrive with only a few hours left in your day to eat dinner and get to bed. You won’t be forced to get off a plane in broad sunlight and stumble around all day without any sleep.

Myth: The solution is sleeping on the plane.

Staying up all night before your flight won’t make you sleep like a baby on the plane. Planes are a terrible place to try for shuteye, and most flights aren’t long enough to let you get a full night’s sleep. Unless your normal nighttime slumber only lasts about four hours, a five-hour flight just won’t be enough.

Flying well rested will go much further in preventing the jet lag symptoms of grumpiness, difficulty concentrating, indigestion and a burning desire to nap.

Unless you’re one of those people who can survive on fewer than four hours of sleep a night, expect to arrive exhausted and experience many of the symptoms of jet lag like difficulty concentrating, a burning desire to nap, indigestion, and general grumpiness.

Myth: Don’t take a nap. Ever.

Common wisdom says a nap will play havoc with your new schedule. If you absolutely, positively cannot keep your eyes open, make your nap a short one in the early afternoon. Set an alarm to make sure you don’t go over two hours napping.


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