Today we “fell-back” and had our bi-annual time change. While for some they may only change their clocks twice a year – I haven’t even counted the number of time changes that I’ve gone through this year. Some of it has been while flying between time zones, some of the time it’s been on the ship. Skipping days – backwards and forwards. Love it or hate it, it’s part of our lives. (Unless you live somewhere that doesn’t have Daylight Savings Time – like Arizona or Hawaii).
The Rule of Thumb is it takes your body one day to adjust per hour of time change, but with some small things you can hit the ground running, whether it be for travel, or for day-light savings time!
Here are some things I have found you can do to lessen the effects of time changes?
- Try to start adjusting your sleep 1-2 days in advance depending on where you are going.
Quick Example: Hour Forward(s): If you usually go to bed at 10:00pm and wake up at 7:00pm, try adjusting by a half hour two nights before, and then a full hour the night before. This would mean going to bed at 9:30pm, then 9:00pm, and waking up at 6:30am, and then 6:00am. By the time you go an hour forward it is on your regular schedule anyways.
Hour Back: Try staying up an hour later (usually just the night of, but it depends on how many time zones you are changing.) For instance, last night I went to bed one hour later than I normally would. On a Saturday night on land in Vermont I would typically go to bed around midnight. I work evenings most of the time when I am in Vermont, so this isn’t very unusual. Last night I forced (and by forced, I just watched an extra couple episodes of The Office on Netflix), myself to stay awake for an extra hour. I set my alarm clock for my standard 9:00am, and by staying up a bit late I ended up waking up a bit before my alarm, but not as much as if I had given in to my tiredness at midnight.
- Drink a lot of water and don’t depend on caffeine so much!
Your internal clock is already having a hard time without you putting energy altering drugs into it. (Speaking of, drinking alcohol – while it can be fun, is also a no-go). Now, I have had it before that I land from flying and I need to drive. Obviously, you don’t want to fall asleep at the wheel. If you are in this situation, try a quick 20 minute power-nap versus caffeine. Caffeine will stay in your system for a long time and that cup of coffee or tea that you had at 6:00pm to keep you going, might very well keep you going at 11:00pm when you are trying to sleep.
- Try to sleep when it makes sense for where you are going – that might mean staying awake or doing your best to nod off on a long flight.
Mostly on long flights I recommend to just sleep whenever your body will let you. This works well when you are going West to East overnight. However, if you are say – flying from New York to London during the middle of the day, get a good nights sleep before your flight. Plan on being awake for the beginning of your flight, resting a bit in the middle, and then doing something that engages your brain before landing. This will keep you from having slept too much on the flight and not be able to fall asleep the next evening.
Going East to West is somewhat the same – say you have an 11:30am flight from London to Los Angeles, it’s an 11+ hour flight, you would arrive at 3:10pm in Los Angeles. That’s 11 hours in the air but in your day less than 4 hours is gone. The trick here is to stay awake until a somewhat regular bedtime for the time zone you are going to. Stay awake until 9:00pm or so, go for a walk, do something engaging (versus just watching TV where you might nod-off). Once you fall asleep your body will be naturally tired enough to keep you asleep until the next morning. Boom!
- Change your clock/watch/phone to the time zone you are going to.
Doing this during a flight can help you mentally prepare for the changing time. For instance, when I flew to California last month I changed my phone to California time, so when I looked at my phone to check the time I didn’t see that it was actually 2:00am in Vermont, I saw that it was 11:00pm in California. Play those mind games! They work!
- Make sure you are getting enough sleep not to be a grouch.
Nobody likes an angry traveler. If you have a lot of travel coming up, don’t try to stay up the night before so you are tired for your flights. While you might sleep on the plane and have the flight go faster, the sleep you get on the plane will not be as high quality as you would in a bed. Don’t let yourself be a grouch.
- If you will need to sleep on a flight to adjust your sleep schedule, bring things to help make that happen.
A sleep mask, noise cancelling headphones, and your favorite relaxing tea goes a long way. Put some soothing music on or the sound of waves and drift away. I also always travel with a very big scarf that I use to double as a blanket and yes, I have a neck pillow. If you are wondering how to get your favorite Sleepy-time Tea – you can travel with tea bags – just ask your flight attendant (or Starbucks, or wherever) for a cup of hot water! Boom! Your own little relaxing nirvana.