Are you planning a long-haul flight? How to beat jet lag (2023)

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Are you planning a long-haul flight? How to beat jet lag (2)

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If you're looking to shave off some travel time in the final weeks of summer, you'll want to make the most of your vacation. Nothing ruins a trip to the Louvre or a scuba diving trip quite like your body is telling you that NOW is the time to go to bed. Is it possible to “hack” jet lag, so to speak? Or at least make it easier?

We posed this question to NPR's international department and received a number of helpful responses from our employees traveling the world.

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For example, NPR producer Greg Dixon is excited about an app for time zone fatigue calledtime-turner. "You put in an itinerary and it spits out a schedule a few days before and a few days after your flight telling you when to access and avoid natural light, drink coffee, take melatonin, etc." writes Greg "It worked really, really well."

Research on jet lag is limited, and most of it involves athletes who, like NPR journalists, are expected to fly in different time zonesIPresent yourself from your best side. youngestconsensus statementto help athletes manage time zone fatigue and travel fatigue in a journalsports medicine, offers several guiding principles.

This explains David Stevens, a physiologist from Adelaide, Australia, who co-authored the statement while working at Flinders University's Sleep Research Centre. First, it's worth understanding how the body's circadian rhythm works, which is our internal clock that tells us when to fall asleep and when to wake up.

Then you can take advantage of what sleep researchers call itTimeror zeitgebers, external factors that determine the tempo of these rhythms. Light is paramount, but exercise, meals, and even social cues can also make you sleepy or awake.

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I usually wake up just before my alarm clock. What about it?

Get ahead

Whether you use the app or not, Stevens recommends starting to adjust your time zone a few days before you travel. "One of the best strategies for preparing for the trip west is to go to bed, say, an hour later each night," says Stevens. And allow yourself to stay in bed an extra hour every morning.

To manage jet lag, you need to pay attention to light exposure and other cues to sync your body clock to the new time zone.Jenny Kane/AP Hide Signature

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Are you planning a long-haul flight? How to beat jet lag (5)

To manage jet lag, you need to pay attention to light exposure and other cues to sync your body clock to the new time zone.

Jenny Kane/AP

The further east you drive, the more difficult the situation becomes. "From west to east it's brutal. From Washington to Tokyo, it usually takes me 10 days to settle in," writes Vincent Ni, NPR's Asia editor.

Stevens says there's a simple explanation for this. Going to bed later than usual - for example on a trip to the West - is relatively easy for our internal clock to understand, since we tend to be more tired in the evening. "My body is working, wait, you should be sleeping now, why aren't you sleeping?" He says.

But when you travel East, you have to try to fall asleep before you're tired, and that just messes up... your body clock, says Stevens. "The body is already working, wait, you shouldn't be sleeping yet. What are you doing?" To make matters worse, one of the body's peak performances, in which we're naturally most awake, is around 7 p.m., she adds.

So in such cases, Stevens says, prepare a few days before your trip by going to bed earlier than usual and waking up early to get plenty of morning light.

Onboard tricks and aids to help you fall asleep

Stevens says it's a good idea to sleep during the flight if possible, although there was consensus that it's best to schedule sleep to match the time of night in the departure city to make falling asleep more natural. This may mean that a night flight is a good choice.

Of course, for some of us, falling asleep in a cramped airplane seat can be nearly impossible (except in business class). NPR's Vincent Ni, however, focuses on the science: "I stuff my backpack with a sturdy but soft material, put it on the tray (economy class) and rest my forehead on it." Eye and hearing protection are key to me .

As might be expected from a group of experienced foreign correspondents, several International Desk members reported on the use of substances not naturally occurring in the body.

"When I'm trying to fall asleep on a plane (and it's not too early in the morning - it's not that bad), a glass or two of wine helps me fall asleep!" writes Beirut correspondent Ruth Sherlock. Others have mentioned taking prescription sedatives like zolpidem (Ambien) to help them get to sleep.

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Stevens advises against using prescription tranquilizers because "it's not really physiological sleep" and can cause addiction.

When it comes to alcohol, Stevens says, the short answer is no. - may affect sleep. On a recent trip to London, he admitted that he "maybe had a pint as soon as we landed, but it was around 4pm," a good six hours before bed.

After landing: Check your light intake

If forcing yourself to fall asleep before sunset doesn't work, it's no surprise, says Stevens. Because light is the most important thingTimeror timer. "When light hits the retina, the signals travel through the brain and reach the hypothalamus," which controls melatonin secretion, says Stevens. Melatonin makes you sleepy and the release only starts when daylight dawns at the end of the day.

Conversely, getting exposure to daylight early in the morning can be a great way to align your daily clock with your new schedule. "To help my body adjust more quickly, I usually spend a lot of time outdoors, if possible in full sun (in the warmer months) or indoors in the sun (in the colder months) to remind my body of the new environment Let melatonin flow,” writes Central Europe correspondent Rob Schmitz.

Stevens says taking a melatonin pill before bed combined with daylight can also be a great way to adjust to a new time zone. Also, don't forget to turn off the blue light on your phone.

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Seeing Without Seeing: How Light Resets Your Body Clock

naps, meals and exercise

NPR deputy international editor Nishant Dahiya and China correspondent John Ruwitch vow to stay up until 9 p.m. Achieve your goal — no matter how miserable you feel — and Stevens says that's a good rule of thumb.

In response to my concerned question, "Are naps allowed?!" Stevens says they can be beneficial. "A nap can give you the energy you need to get through a few extra hours." Hook? It is recommended to limit naps to 20 minutes.

Dahiya also relies on "more than three espresso shots the next morning" to ease her insomnia. Stevens warns against drinking caffeine at least 6 hours before you plan to eat hay.

Instead of chemical aids, Stevens recommends the use of other aidsTimer- including food intake, exercise and temperature changes to adjust to a different time zone. "Every cell in our body seems to follow a circadian rhythm," she says. For example, "If you exercise at a certain time of day and then change gears during your exercise," it says it may be a circadian signal in a new time zone. The same applies to changed meal times.

"My favorite way to fall asleep is to go for a walk," says Stevens. "Even if it's only an hour, even if it's night, a walk and some fresh air clears your head," she says.

We wish you a successful journey. Let us know if any of these tips work for you. Write to


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