The Mother of Adventure

The drag of jet lag

on July 11, 2012

My kids are so much more fun to be around when they are well rested.

Sweet sleep…I love it. I need it. Life looks all-around brighter after I’ve had it, and I know the same is true for the rest of our young family. So how do you prepare for the inevitable wrench that jet lag throws into your sleep patterns during an overseas trip?

As we prepare to head from Canada to the UK this summer, I’m hoping that with a bit of planning ahead I can minimize the symptoms of jet lag. In my research, I’ve learned that light exposure and light avoidance can assist in helping travellers transition more smoothly between time zones. Light – whether it’s daylight or simply a bedroom lamp – is important because it is one of the ‘cues’ that our body clocks use to link with the outside world.

I came across a neat little tool called the Jet Lag Calculator (www.britishairways.com/travel/drsleep) on the British Airways web site. Developed in conjunction with the UK’s leading sleep expert, Dr. Chris Idzikowski, it uses the current times for both home and your destination (and the discrepancy between them), to suggest tips for overcoming jet lag.

I entered the five-hour time difference between Ottawa and London. For us, the Jet Lag Calculator suggests seeking and avoiding light (drawing the blinds, wearing an eye mask or dark glasses) at specific times on day one and day two of our trip, as follows:

Day 1: 

  • Avoid light between 7:00 a.m. and 9:30 a.m.
  • Seek light between 9:30 a.m. and noon

Day 2:

  • Avoid light between 5:00 a.m. and 7:30 a.m.
  • Seek light between 7:30 a.m. and 10 a.m.
A number of sources also advise that adjusting your exercise and main meal times to the new time zone will help to synchronise your body clock more quickly.
If you’ve crossed time zones with kids and have any experiences to share – whether good or not-so-good – I would love to hear them!

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