How to avoid jet lag

Flying across the country or even overseas this summer? You don’t want to waste part of your trip adjusting to the time difference.

“When we travel across time zones…as a result our circadian rhythm is thrown off balance,” said Dr. Keri Peterson, an internist in New York City.  This disruption to our internal body clock is commonly known as jet lag.

Symptoms of jet lag include fatigue, insomnia, dehydration, irritability, memory problems and stomach problems.

According to Peterson, there are a few simple ways to avoid jet lag and enjoy your vacation.

“Get to bed early the night before, if you need to get up for an early flight, drink a good glass of water when you wake up in the morning, and have a sound breakfast,” Peterson recommended.  “Pack ahead of time--don't wait until the last minute so that you're stressed.”

Also, avoid alcohol and caffeine, which may disrupt your sleep and dehydrate you.

“Keep your diet healthy; and don’t resort to soda and sugary foods because that's going to worsen your jet lag symptoms,” Peterson said.

Getting up regularly to take a walk can get your circulation going and keep you refreshed, she added.

In regards to sleeping on the plane – if it’s going to be nighttime when you arrive at your final destination, feel free to doze off.  Ear plugs, an eye mask and a pillow can all help enhance sleep.  However, if it’s going to be daytime, you should stay awake, Peterson said.

If you’re having trouble sleeping once you land, it may be worthwhile to pick up a melatonin supplement.

“What this does is, it allows your natural circadian rhythm  to re-balance itself,” Peterson said.  “If you use it for a couple of days, it helps to promote sleep-- and it's non-habit forming.”

Finally, don’t pack in too much sightseeing on your first day – give your body some time to adjust.