A sleep expert tells us how to improve jet lag

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Adapted from an article by Richard A. Friedman’s article, “Yes, your sleep schedule is making you sick” published in the New York Times March 10 2017

Jet lag makes everyone miserable and here is what you can do about it.

 

We have a circadian rhythm that is 25 hours long and it is almost in synchronicity with the 24 hour day. Jet lag messes this up big time. Everyone who has experienced it knows that jet lag makes you feel tired, out of sorts, renders concentration difficult and makes you moody.

If you are flying from New York to Rome for instance and arrive early in the morning Rome time,  the best way to reduce jet lag is to keep on eye shades in the plane and dark glasses on the ground till your New York 7am has been reached. This will be about lunch time in Rome.

Melatonin is also an important factor. As it starts getting dark your pineal gland starts to produce melatonin around 2 or 3 hours before your sleep time. If you take a melatonin supplement earlier than this is can become possible for you to fall asleep earlier than you otherwise would.

Surprisingly, if you take melatonin in the early morning, it can fool your brain into thinking it slept longer, at least to some extent, and does not make you more tired during the day.

So this is the fix for jet lag. Travel east and you’ll need morning light and evening melatonin. Go west and you’ll need evening light and morning melatonin. 

If you are a night owl, who can’t sleep at midnight because it’s too early for you, take a small dose of melatonin a few hours before the desired bedtime. They can also try exposure to bright lights at progressively earlier times in the morning, which also should make it easier to fall asleep earlier. You

should also avoid the blue light that smartphones and computers emit in the evenings. You can wear special glasses that block blue light if this is a problem.

Richard A. Friedman is a professor of clinical psychiatry and director of psychopharmacology clinic at the Weill Cornell Medical College.

Apps for Activity Tracking

jawboneMeet my new toy – the Jawbone Up activity tracker.

As activity trackers go, this is one of the basic ones. It tracks your movement and your sleep. But that’s still something. The analytics include a log of the longest time you’re active and idle and it tells you your sleep patterns too.

My husband got one through work, but wasn’t interested. As it was going spare, I took it up. You download an app for it, pair it with the device and away you go. Walk walk, walk…

So far, I’ve only done a couple of other forms of exercise while wearing it – a Joe Wicks work-out I found on YouTube, which it recorded, and some body weight exercises that don’t seem to register unless you count the steps you move while performing them.

You can log your other exercise and the app claims if you do this, the app will learn to recognise things. That might be interesting for a class such as spin, for example.

Anyway, it is interesting wearing a tracker and it does compel you to move more. I’m a bit competitive with myself so I’m always aiming to achieve high step figures. My average is about 14,500 steps a day so far. The app my daily step count puts me in the highest percentage of users – and in the top 10 percent for my age.

Go me…

We’ve been lucky in Scotland this winter so far, in that it has been fairly dry. If wet, windy weather comes along, tallying up those steps might not be as easy.

Do you use an activity tracker? Has it changed your behaviour and do you find it useful?