NASA-approved anti-jet lag tips

For travelers crossing multiple time zones, jet lag usually comes along for the ride. Here are a few NASA-approved strategies to prevent its groggy effects from spoiling your trip.

When it comes to managing jet lag, there are few better places to look than the fatigue management team at NASA Johnson Space Center in Houston. According to the New York Times this week, the agency helps train astronauts who fly between international space agencies to overcome jet lag two to three times faster than other travelers. While the anti-jet lag prescription is highly individualized for the astronauts, the average traveler can glean a few useful pointers.

Understand what intensifies jet lag
Jet lag, as every long-distance airline passenger knows, disrupts the body's normal circadian rhythms, or body clocks, and causes some very unpleasant effects such as disturbed sleep, dizziness, and fatigue. The severity of the symptoms usually depends on the number of time zones you've crossed, the length of your stay, and the direction of travel. Symptoms tend to be worse the more time zones you cross and the shorter the trip is, that is, a direct flight versus a layover or a weekend trip from Paris to New York. It's reported that eastward travel is more difficult than westward travel, because it is usually easier to extend your day than to shorten it.

Drink water, eat lightly
To help curb jet lag, stay hydrated throughout the flight by drinking plenty of water and avoiding caffeine and alcohol, which can disrupt sleeping schedules and further dehydrate your body. Also, food is harder to digest at high altitudes, so eat lightly during the flight and avoid the high-salt, high-fat meals you're likely to be served on board.

Manage natural daylight
Upon arrival, expose yourself to as much natural daylight as you can -- light is the most powerful influence on the timing of your body's internal clock. CNN Health also reported that for eastward travel, it's best to avoid bright light, especially sunlight, for the first few mornings. Wear dark sunglasses and a hat or stay indoors. Then get as much sunlight as possible between noon and 4 p.m.

Try melatonin
Try to establish sleeping patterns without resorting to pills. However, if you have difficulty sleeping on the first two or three nights, consider melatonin. You can take 2.5 mg sublingually at bedtime for one or two nights to reduce your jet lag, but avoid stronger sedatives, which experts say can mask jet lag symptoms but do nothing to help realign the internal clock. Most people will adjust to new time zones eventually on their own. How soon? It is estimated that it takes one day per time zone crossed for circadian rhythms to adjust to local time.

More tips: http://healthysleep.med.harvard.edu/healthy/getting/overcoming/tips

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