Do you love to travel but hate how tired it makes you? If you’re fatigued when you finally get to your destination, there’s a good reason. Traveling across time zones seriously throws your circadian rhythm out of sync. Your body gets confused when you’re exposed to sunlight at times that don’t align with your internal clock, disrupting your ability to get a full night’s sleep. The result? It takes days to adjust, leaving you sluggish or groggy.
To help your body cope with travel, sleep expert to OURA, Dr. Rebecca Robbins, Ph.D., offers tips for adapting to your new schedule — so you can start enjoying your trip sooner.
1. Plan ahead
In the weeks before your trip, move your bedtime and waking times in the direction of the time at your destination by 15-minute increments every day. Once on the plane, set your smartphone or wristwatch to the time at your destination, then start eating, drinking and behaving as you would at that new schedule.
“Avoid taking red-eye flights when possible, because any sleep you may get on a plane will likely be poor quality, which may start your trip on the wrong foot,” advised Robbins. Understanding how to maximize sleep to support your health is a great first step toward improving your well-being — at home and abroad.
2. Take these steps upon arrival
When you reach your destination, get outside and walk or exercise in the fresh air and sunlight as much as possible. This will help your body make the transition to the new time. “However, if you’re feeling sluggish after you arrive, try taking a 20-minute or 90-minute nap to recover from lost sleep,” said Robbins.
3. Eat thoughtfully
Avoid heavy meals around dinnertime or close to your new bedtime at your destination. Indulging in a big late dinner can be tempting while traveling, but it’s recommended to choose a hearty breakfast and lunch, followed by a lighter and, when possible, early dinner. Eating lighter meals close to bedtime can help reduce the risk of sleep disruptions, particularly when you’re adjusting to a new time zone and in a new place with unfamiliar foods that may be difficult for you to digest.
4. Exercise outside at your new destination
Exercise is an essential way to keep your digestion and other processes in the body on track. Exercising outdoors at your new destination whenever possible is a particularly powerful tool for beating jet lag. Exercise outdoors provides access to sunlight, which is the strongest input to our circadian rhythm, and can accelerate our ability to adjust to a new time zone. In a study of airline crewmembers, those that were instructed to work out outside adjusted faster to their new destination than a control group that did not do so.
5. Make bedtime seem like home
To help you sleep in a new place and time zone, try to maintain your usual nighttime routine. Whatever strategies help you unwind at home — a warm shower, reading a book, meditating — will help you relax anywhere. You’re more likely to sleep well if you follow the same patterns your body expects at bedtime. It can also help to bring things from home that soothe you.
“Falling asleep is all about feeling safe, secure and at peace,” added Robbins. “Bringing things from home can help a new place feel familiar, like a cozy scarf that doubles as a blanket, or even your favorite set of pajamas, can enhance your ability to relax before bed.”
How OURA can help improve wellness
You can also use an Oura Ring to improve your rest and recovery after you’re back home. Their state-of-the-art research means you’ll have personalized health insights and daily guidance to enhance your well-being before, during and after your travels.
If you’re unsure how well you sleep, technology can help you understand your body’s rhythms. For example, the Oura Ring uses advanced, research-grade sensors to pack state-of-the-art heart rate, heart rate variability (HRV), personalized temperature, activity and sleep monitoring technology into a convenient, non-invasive ring. While many wearables started with fitness, the Oura Ring focused first on sleep — the daily habit that’s perhaps the most impactful daily practice on your overall health.
Looking for ways to help with your sleep schedule whether you’re on the ground or in the air? Wearables like the Oura Ring can help you gain insights on your sleep and overall health to make the most out of your next trip. Visit OuraRing.com to learn more.