How to Beat Jet Lag

A few simple habits can help you stay well-rested while you travel. 

Woman with suitcase looking tired, how to beat jet lag, illus. by Ron Chan, image

Sleeping aids and bright light can help prevent jet lag.

We all have internal clocks that tell us when to sleep and when to get moving. But if a plane zips you to a far-off time zone, that clock may not be in sync with the local time, leaving you drowsy and disoriented.

“Every day of vacation is precious,” says Robert Sack, a psychiatrist and sleep disorders specialist at Oregon Health Science University. “You don’t want jet lag getting in the way.”

Sack advises resetting your clock with some well-timed bright light. After traveling eastward, try going outside in the morning. After a long westward trip, light in the early evening—either outside or in a bright room—can keep you alert until bedtime.

Sack says melatonin supplements can help, too. After eastward travel, try taking a three-milligram dose at bedtime. After a westward flight, consider taking a low dose (half a milligram
or less) if you wake up during the night.

Illustration by Ron Chan

This article was first published in September 2013. Some facts may have aged gracelessly. Please call ahead to verify information.

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