By Lisa Evans
JETTING TO EXOTIC destinations may
sound like the perfect recipe to combat stress,
but not if you suffer from jet lag. A temporary
disorder caused by a disruption in the body’s
internal clock, jet lag can cause fatigue,
insomnia and a number of physical and emotional symptoms, including anxiety, irritability, nausea, constipation and headaches,
making it difficult for you to enjoy the sights.
Jet lag is the result of a traveler’s circadian
clock getting out of whack. “Your body is used
to a certain pattern,” says Costco member Dr.
Tania Elliott of New York City. You eat meals
and sleep around the same time every day, so
when you travel to a new time zone, you have
to adjust to a new timetable.
“The natural 24-hour rhythms in your
body don’t line up with the clock anymore,”
explains James MacFarlane, a Costco member
and director of education and clinical consul-
tant at MedSleep in Toronto. It can take sev-
eral days for your body to adjust to its new
time zone. MacFarlane says it can take two to
11 days for your circadian clock to reset. And
you don’t have to be flying halfway around the
world to be affected by jet lag. Dr. Robert
Rosenberg, a sleep medicine expert and
Costco member in Arizona, says traveling
over just three time zones can cause jet lag.
The following simple tips can help you
avoid jet lag and make the most of your trip.
Avoid sleep deprivation. Be sure to get six
to eight hours of sleep for a couple of days
before your trip, as sleep deprivation will
make jet lag symptoms worse.
Shift your sleep schedule. To help you
adjust to your new time zone, Rosenberg rec-
ommends going to bed 15 to 30 minutes ear-
lier every day for three to four days if you’re
going east, and the reverse ( 15 to 30 minutes
later) if you’re traveling west to help you
adjust to your new time zone.
For help adjusting your sleep schedule, try
the free app Jet Lag Rooster, online at jetlag
rooster.com (for Android and iPhone). Plug in
your flight dates and normal sleep times, and
the app will create a sleep schedule and suggest
when to seek light exposure to help you make
the transition to your new time zone.
Avoid alcohol and caffeine. While a midair drink may help you to relax, it can also
worsen the symptoms of jet lag. Since altitude changes speed up the effects of alcohol,
one drink in the air is equal to two or three
on the ground.
Sleep during flight. Depending on which
direction you’re headed, sleeping in-flight can
make your jet lag worse. If it’s nighttime at
your destination, go ahead and catch some
Z’s, but if it’s daytime at your final destination,
try to stay awake to help your circadian clock
adjust to the new time.
Find the light. Because circadian rhythms
are largely governed by sunlight, exposure to
natural light is the best way to reset your
body’s clock. MacFarlane recommends seeking sunlight first thing in the morning at your
destination. “Wake up, go for a walk around
the block, then have a shower,” he suggests.
“That’s going to very rapidly shut off your
melatonin production and give a cue to the
body that the day has started.”
Pack melatonin. While you may be
tempted to pop a sleeping pill, Elliott says
melatonin is a better option. A hormone that
makes you feel sleepy at night, melatonin
“opens the sleep gates,” she says. MacFarlane
recommends taking melatonin three or four
hours before bedtime, when the sun sets.
If you still have trouble falling asleep, taking melatonin the day you arrive and for three
to four nights after can help to reset your circadian rhythm. Melatonin is nonaddictive,
but be sure to check with your doctor or pharmacist to ensure melatonin won’t interfere
with any of your medications. C
Lisa Evans is a Toronto-based freelance writer.
The Costco Connection
You can find melatonin and other items
to help make traveling easier at your local
Costco warehouse and on Costco.com.
Don’t let jet lag
disrupt your vacation
Jet lag is the
result of a
out of whack.