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It's holiday season, when many people may be whisking across time zones to visit loved ones or take a vacation. However, depending on where you go, jet lag, especially for those going east -- say from the US to Europe -- can intrude on as many as six days of vacation or business using the common guideline -- one day's adjustment for each time zone crossed. It's even more problematic for people beyond their mid-40s, when the body develops greater resistance to being on the "wrong" time. Because the circadian clock controls all body rhythms, when jet travel disrupts it, the traveler might suffer digestive upsets and irritability (both digestive and personality) in addition to being wide awake in the wee hours and sleepy at lunch. Treating with sleeping pills, as many travelers do, relieves sleep deprivation but not jet lag symptoms during the day. The only real cure for jet lag is resetting the body clock.
RECENT LEARNING ON RESETTING THE CLOCK
PHASE ADVANCING (FOR TRAVEL WEST TO EAST)
With that as background, you are ready to begin phase advancing for eastbound travel. The ideal would be to follow the method for the number of days equal to the number of time zones you will cross, but even fewer days will lessen your jet lag on arrival and you'll recover more quickly. Don't worry if you lie awake part of the time you are in bed, said Dr. Eastman. Simply remain in a darkened room for the duration and you will help reset your body clock. Based on a bedtime of midnight and a wakeup time of 8 am here is how to accomplish phase advancing...
PHASE DELAYING (EAST TO WEST TRAVEL)
Westbound travel, which calls for phase delaying, is much easier for the body. The reason, said Dr. Eastman, is probably because the circadian cycle is usually longer than 24 hours, stretching to as much as 25. Phase delaying, then, is also simpler. Just set your bedtime later by an hour or two sequentially every night for at least a few days and get full light exposure for a few hours before going to bed. You don't need melatonin when phase delaying. Phase delaying is also good for eastbound travelers who are crossing seven or eight time zones -- especially for night owls. It's easier than phase advancing and, for far distances, just as beneficial. However, it is difficult to schedule if you have a job with set hours or young children.
Depending on your direction of travel, resetting the body clock can take a lot of effort. But, when you're preparing for your once in a lifetime trip, it may be far better to have a socially awkward sleep schedule (going to bed really early or waking up really late) before you go rather than miss out on any of your time at your destination. Dr. Eastman reminded me, too, that most people don't phase shift themselves entirely into the anticipated new time zone, whether advancing or delaying. However, according to her, shifting even a few zones makes travel substantially easier and more rewarding.