Jet Lag - Patient Education Video
How to Deal with Jet Lag
Jet lag describes the depressive symptoms you can experience from traveling through several time zones. These symptoms include fatigue, decreased alertness, loss of appetite, decreased cognitive skills, and disruption of your sleep/wake cycle (also known as circadian rhythm sleep disturbance) This temporary exhaustion and sleeplessness can be enough to trigger your depression if you're already susceptible. To deal with this situation, should take steps to keep your mood up as much as possible. Taking proactive measures, both before and while traveling, may also help you manage the depressive symptoms or depression relapse associated with jet lag.
Coping in the Moment
Carry your medications with you.If you're on an antidepressant, make sure to put them in your carry-on luggage to take with you. Also, make sure you have enough medication to last the whole trip. If you're going to need more than you have, talk to your doctor about getting an extension on your prescription.
Get the amount of sleep you need.When you're on a trip, it can be tempting to cut your sleep time shorter with so much to see and do; however, that can just make any jet lag depressive symptoms you're experiencing that much worse.
- That means you have to know how much sleep you need to feel okay. Maybe you're fine on seven hours, but you may also need a bit more, like eight-and-a-half.
- If you know you have trouble falling asleep in new situations, try to make it as much like home as possible. Use sound to fall asleep if you normally do that at home, for instance. If you find a certain scent, such as lavender, relaxing, carry a satchel of it with you.
- You can also try guided sleep meditation. Many phone apps provide guided meditations for free, and you can use one designed for sleep to help you fall asleep.
- Block out any light. Make sure to pull all the curtains shut to block out as much street light as possible, or wear a sleep mask.
Have your support in place.Having good support, in the form of friends and family you can talk to, can help you deal with any depressive symptoms that come up. If possible, travel with someone you trust. If that's not possible, have someone who's willing to be available to talk when you need it.
- For example, make sure your partner knows that you're nervous about being away on a business trip alone and worried about jet lag. You could ask them to check in with you each night to help you feel more secure. You could say, "I'm a little bit nervous about this trip. Would you mind calling me each night at about 9:30?"
- You could also tell a friend, "I'm going on a trip, and I'm worried that the jet lag might cause a relapse of my depression. Can I call you if I'm feeling down?"
Take time to be social and to have down time.When traveling, take some time out to spend with other people, whether it's your friends, family members, or coworkers. If you're traveling alone, just going out to eat somewhere rather than eating in can help your mood. Also, if you're an introvert, make sure to schedule in some down time, as well, so you don't overexert yourself emotionally, particularly if you're traveling with a large group.
Enjoy some hobby time.If possible, take your favorite hobby with you, whether it's reading a book, playing cards, or crocheting. That way, you have something you enjoy doing for the down time in the evening, which can make you happier overall.
Try some meditation or deep breathing.If you're feeling depressed, that can lead to some anxiety, too. Take a few moments each day to meditate or deep breathe, refocusing your energies. Deep breathing is simplest. It just requires you to take a few moments out to focus on your breathing.
- Close your eyes. Breathe in to the count of four, feeling your belly fill with air, then hold four. Breathe out to the count of four, feeling your belly deflate, then hold four. Repeat until you feel the calming effects.
Don't be afraid to go home.If you're just not having a good time because you're too depressed or not enjoying being out of your routine, it's okay to cut your trip short (unless it's a work trip that you can't get out of). You may find that you're just too exhausted to actually enjoy being in a fun place, and what good is that doing anybody?
- Don't forget, though, that jet lag symptoms can occur after a trip, too. In that case, getting out and doing something fun at home can help combat the blues.
Taking Preventative Measures to Reduce Jet Lag
Start shifting your sleep schedule.Before you leave on your trip, start gradually shifting your sleep schedule to one that's in line with the place you're going. For instance, if there's a four-hour time difference between where you are and where you're going, starting shifting your sleep in that direction.
- If you're going east, you'll gradually be going to bed earlier. For instance, if you live in New York and you're going to Scotland, that's a five-hour time difference. If you normally go to bed at 10 pm, that's 3 am in Scotland. Try shifting your bedtime 30 minutes earlier, and go to bed at 9:30 pm, which is 2:30 am in Scotland. The next night, try going to bed at 9 pm, and so on, until you get closer to your normal bedtime in the place you're going.
- If you're traveling west, it can be a bit harder to shift your schedule if you have to work at a certain time, because you'll be staying up later and later.
Make sure your health problems are under control.If you have other conditions, such as diabetes or a breathing problem, it helps to have it under control before you leave. Be sure to take your medications and follow your doctor's orders. If you've been having trouble, talk to your doctor.
- If you're not feeling well, jet lag may affect you more, which could lead to mild depression.
Drink enough water.It can be easy to get dehydrated while traveling, since you're out of your normal routine and the air in airplanes is fairly dry. Dehydration can worsen the effects of jet lag, so make it a point to drink enough water. Buy a bottle of water when you get past security or take an empty bottle to fill up at a water fountain.
- Take the drinks offered on planes, though stick to water and juice instead of alcohol, soda, or coffee to maximize hydration.
- Make sure to drink up before you leave home, as well.
- You can also try eating hydrating foods, such as watermelon, cucumbers, tomatoes, oranges, and soup.
Eat a .If you eat junk while you're traveling, you may end up feeling worse. Of course, you don't want to deviate too much from your normal diet (that can upset your stomach), but you should try to stick to healthier choices to increase your overall sense of well-being.
Take a different means of transportation.If you know jet lag affects you particularly badly, try taking a slower form of travel, such as train or ship. Alternatively, stop over a few days somewhere halfway to where you're going. Taking it more slowly can help you adjust.
Getting on the New Schedule
Use light to your advantage.When you need to get up earlier than yo're accustomed to back home, make sure you get some sunlight early in the day. Sunlight can help your body adjust to the new schedule. When you need to stay up later, try getting some sunlight near the end of the day to help you feel more alert.
Skip naps unless it's early.When arrive at your destination, you'll likely feel like napping; however, that can throw off your later sleep schedule. If it's early enough, such as starting a nap before 11 am, you may get away with it, but any later may be a problem.
Try melatonin.Some people find that taking melatonin helps them adjust. Taking about 0.5 milligrams of melatonin 30 minutes before bedtime may help you adjust to the new schedule.Melatonin can make you sleepier, helping you fall asleep easier.
- Always consult your doctor before starting a new supplement.
- Melatonin is naturally produced by your body. It tells your body to get sleepy, which is why taking it has helped some people to sleep better.
- In addition, long flights can decrease your body's production of melatonin, making it harder to sleep.
- Avoid alcohol when taking melatonin.
Don't forget other parts of your routine.If you spend time reading the paper every morning, make sure that's part of your routine at your destination. Similarly, if you exercise for half an hour most days, try to ensure that stays in your schedule, too. Of course, you're going to need to make some adjustments to your normal schedule, but keeping some aspects of your regular routine well help keep you feeling more like yourself.
Video: How to avoid jet lag
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