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Dealing With Jet Lag

By Jiachen Sun & Wei Wang

What is jet lag?

As international students, jet lag is probably something that we’ve all experienced that some point in our lives. After being stuck on an airplane for a good chunk of the day, all we want is some good rest, but nooo. Some of us just cannot sleep because jet lag slaps us in the face. Let’s just say for the people that are affected, it is not a fun experience. Jet lag is caused by traveling from one timezone to another faraway one too rapidly (usually on an airplane). Your body is sometimes unable to adjust to the new time immediately (especially if it’s the relatively big time difference between the US and China), so jet lag is the temporary sleep disorder that you may have. You tend to sleep when it is light out, and you are wide awake in the middle of the night. Sound familiar?


How to get over jet lag:

Jet lag is unpreventable; however, there are several scientific methods that will significantly reduce the symptoms of jet lag. For example, you can gradually adjust your bedtime and eating schedules according to the time zone of your destination a few days prior to your trip. If you are traveling from China to the United State, you should sleep and eat later than your usual times. On the opposite, if you are traveling from the United State to China, you should sleep and eat earlier. This method should make your adjustment faster and easier. Furthermore, you should avoid any consumption of caffeine-containing beverages because they can disrupt your sleep patterns. Dehydration is another factor that can worsen the symptoms of jet lag; therefore, you should drink sufficient amount of water during the flight and after you have arrived at your destination.


When you arrive at the destination, you should go outside and obtain enough exposure to sunlight. It will help to synchronize your circadian rhythm. If you have traveled westward, such as from China to the U.S., exposure to the evening light will help to advance your circadian rhythm. Likewise, for eastward trips, exposure to the morning light will delay your circadian rhythm and allow you to adapt faster. In addition to sunlight exposure, you should also eat and sleep according to the local time, and if possible, you should get a minimum 4 hours of anchor sleep on the night of arrival, which will help you create a regular sleep schedule.


Other than these methods, some people will also take medicines, such as melatonin, to help them overcome jet lag. However, you should consult your doctor about these medicines prior to the trip because most of them have serious side effects and are only used on a short-term basis. Therefore, they should not be your go-to method.


Bon voyage!

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