The RE Factor Tactical crew has some experience traveling abroad and we have devised a few tips to help get over jet-lag as quickly as possible. Those of us who are often asked to work the same day we arrive need to get into the new time zone as quickly as possible. So here are a few things that have worked for us.
Take sleep aids: There are many prescribed sleeping drugs such as Ambien. However, these drugs have numerous side effects and may be difficult to get last minute. We have found that 3-5mg of Melatonin mixed with ZMA are a great, over-the-counter way to help you sleep through the night. The melatonin (which is naturally formed in your brain when it’s time to sleep) will help get you to sleep while the ZMA is designed to offer a deeper sleep and put you into a REM cycle. You can also add over the counter sleeps aids such as Z-Quil although these can cause drowsiness the next day. If you do take melatonin only take it for a few days since some studies have shown your body stops producing it on its own so use it sparingly.
Stay out in the sun as much as possible: By putting yourself in the sun for prolonged periods you help reset your body’s circadian rhythm which is basically your sleep cycle. Going for a walk or run in the sun when you would normally be sleeping back at home will help speed up your ability to adjust to the new time zone.
Don’t go to sleep when you’re tired: Stick it out. If it’s 7pm at night don’t give in and just go to sleep. By doing so you will be prolonging your adjustment time. It’s beneficial to get out and go for a walk or some other form of light activity that will help you stay awake until an acceptable bedtime hour.
Take caffeine, but only in the morning/afternoon: Caffeine will help keep you awake in the morning and afternoon but don’t take any after around 3pm. If you drink caffeine to keep yourself awake till an acceptable hour it can wake you up in the middle of the night when your drowsiness wears off. Caffein has a 6-8 hour half life so if you drink 100mg of caffeine (about a small cup of coffee) at noon, about 50mg will still be coursing through your veins when it’s time to get to bed. In the end caffeine is a drug and should be treated as such. Most people can only handle around 300mg of caffein (about 2-3 cups of coffee) before the drug has negative effects and no longer affects their ability to stay awake/perform.
If your hungry, eat: You may find yourself waking up in the middle of the night starving… It’s ok this is natural. If you are starving don’t try to go back to sleep, it usually doesn’t work. Instead get up and get yourself a light snack but be careful what you eat. If you eat something that has sugar, such as a candy bar, fruit or cereal you will have a much harder time getting back to sleep. Try to eat something that is higher is fat or protein and less in carbohydrates to keep from spiking your energy levels.
Don’t use your phone, computer or TV right before bed: The glow of these items has the same effect on your brain as sunlight and will tell you brain it’s day time. When it’s time to go to sleep you will find it’s a lot easier to fall asleep if you read a book before bed. If you wake up in the middle of the night avoid the above items at all costs as they will only fuel the fire.