One of the most popular activities for retired seniors is travel. And unlike vacations of the past, you can go where you want without having to be concerned about fun activities for the children. However, if you’re planning a trip that involves a long flight – especially a flight several time zones to the east of where you live – you’ll probably experience jet lag to some degree. As we age, our bodies take longer to recover from physical stress, which means jet lag affects seniors to a greater degree than it does younger people.
With jet lag, most people feel a little tired and irritable. Considered a sleep disorder, jet lag occurs when the timing of your body’s circadian rhythms gets out of alignment with the visual cues of the world around you. Let’s say you’re traveling from Orlando to London, for example. That’s a nine-hour flight and you cross five time zones. So, if you take off at noon, when you land in London, your body thinks it’s 9 p.m. But when you step outside, it’s still only 4 p.m. and daylight.
The brain relies on light cues to determine when it should begin producing melatonin, the hormone responsible for making you sleepy. As a result, many people have trouble sleeping because they’re ready for bed while everyone else is sitting down to dinner. Jet lag can temporarily make you less alert and unable to maintain mental focus, cause sleep problems, and even upset your digestive system, among several common symptoms.
While there is no cure for jet lag, there are a few things you can do to minimize its effects and help you recover Faster.
- Check with your physician before the trip to see if any of your medication schedules need to be adjusted while you travel.
- Unless you’re on an overnight flight, avoid sleeping more than 30 minutes at a time. If you enter deep sleep, it could cause more problems with your sleep cycle.
- Drink a lot of fluids for a few days before, as well as during your flight. The air on planes tends to be dry, which can cause dehydration.
- Avoid caffeine, which not only affects your sleep but also makes staying hydrated more difficult.
- Take it easy on the alcohol before your flight. Being hungover will only make the jet lag seem even worse.
- After you land, go outside and get some sun. Natural sunlight is the best way to help your body adjust its internal clock.
- Even if it takes a little effort, sleep and eat at the appropriate times for the time of day at your destination.
Finally, try not to be too tired when your flight takes off. Go to bed a little earlier than usual the night before you travel so you’re well-rested at the start of your trip. Your body will require extra energy to help you recover and adjust to the new time zone, and the faster you adjust, the more you’ll enjoy your vacation!