Beat Jet Lag With Light
The holiday season is an especially tough time to travel, not to mention those cramped coach seats, recirculated air, and crossing multiple time zones. If you’re having difficulty overcoming jet-lag, try this:
Your body’s “internal clock” isn’t largely changed by outside forces, but one thing does have an impact: light. This is because the retina of your eye is connected to the hypothalamus, the part of your brain that controls the “time-keeping” aspect of your glands and organs. Simply stated: You can use bright light to help you overcome jet lag!
Let’s say you’ve traveled east, from California to New York (or Newark to London), it will help your body to get outside or expose yourself to artificial bright indoor light for 30 minutes or more in the morning. If you’ve traveled in the opposite direction (say from Dublin to Detroit) then expose yourself to the bright light in the evening hours. This actually helps move your body’s internal clock back, helping you stay in sync with the new time zone.
It’s a tiny bit different if you travel through more than six time zones at a time (for instance, Los Angeles to London). If you’ve traveled eastward through more than 6 time zones, you should AVOID bright light in the morning. Conversely, if you’ve traveled more than 6 time zones westward, then avoid bright light in the evening for the first several days of your trip.
I’ve recommended Melatonin to countless working travelers and business professionals. It’s a popular supplement often used to treat jet lag. Available in nutrition stores everywhere, melatonin is a naturally-secreted hormone produced by your pineal gland (which, like the hypothalamus, is connected to nerve pathways activated by light). In a nutshell, melatonin helps to pull your biological clock into the nightly phases of its natural, daily rhythm. Most experts I’ve found recommend taking 2 to 5 mg dose at bedtime to help relieve the symptoms of jet lag. This might be worth doing on the first two to four days of your visit.