If you travel a lot, you know that it’s absolutely EXHAUSTING. A day of running through security checkpoints, sitting through delays and hopping from plane to train to automobile takes a toll on the body.
That’s why it’s especially important to make sure your sleep is solid throughout the length of your trip. And if you’re traveling to a different time zone, you need to adjust your sleep schedule so that your body doesn’t get out of whack.
Here are 3 tips that will help you get better sleep before, during and after your trip!
1. Give yourself a head start
Start adjusting your sleep schedule 2-3 days before your trip. You don’t want to start when you land at your destination, because it takes a few days to slowly tweak your body’s circadian rhythms.
Charlene Gamaldo, the medical director at the Johns Hopkins Center for Sleep, says that it will typically take your body one day to adjust for every time zone it jumps. So if you’re going east but only gaining one hour, you only need to prepare one day in advance, because your sleep schedule won’t be changing much.
However, if you’re going from the west coast to the east coast, a three-hour time difference, you’re going to need three days of planning in advance.
2. Try melatonin
Melatonin isn’t the answer for good sleep every night, but it can be a great tool for when you’re trying to adjust your sleep schedule. Melatonin is a natural hormone that your body releases a couple of hours before your typical bedtime. It makes your body relaxed and ready for sleep.
Taking melatonin as a supplement will help you get your body ready for a time zone change. Take it 1-2 hours before you’d like to go to sleep so your body knows to begin preparing for rest.
3. Pay attention to light
Light plays a major role in your body’s circadian rhythms. According to the National Sleep Foundation:
“As evening approaches and the light in our environment dwindles, the hormone melatonin begins to rise and body temperature falls—both of which help us to become less alert and more likely to welcome sleep.
“With the help of morning light, melatonin levels are low, body temperature begins to rise, and other chemical shifts, such as an uptick in the activating hormone cortisol, occur to help us feel alert and ready for the day.”
So, try to match your light intake to that of your destination. For example, if you’re planning to go to from the West Coast to the East Coast in a few days and you want to get to bed at 10 p.m. when you’re there, then you’ll start by getting yourself to bed at 7 p.m. a few days prior, as per tip #1.
But since it might still be light out at 7 p.m. on the West Coast, your body will be confused!
Therefore, you should try to match your environment to what it will be like on the East Coast. Put an extra shade over your blinds to block the sun, wear an eye mask, or even try sunglasses if you’re outside! The more you can reduce that light intake, the better.
Keep checking back for more tips to help you get the best sleep possible!