It's really late (or early) and I should be sleeping. However, my internal clock didn't travel with me, it's still in the US and I can't fall asleep! That's the jet lag. Even though I have crossed the ocean several times already, it's always the same. There are 6 hours ahead in Spain, which means by the time I wake up here, I would be going to bed back in New York. When it's time to go to sleep, I'm not sleepy, so I keep turning around and around until I finally sleep, which is usually very close to the time I should be waking up.
It doesn't only affect to the sleeping habits, but also to eating. For example, right now I should be sleeping in Spain. I already had dinner and I shouldn't be eating anymore. Nevertheless, something inside of me is saying EAT EAT EAT! And I'm actually starving! Am I going crazy? Hopefully not. As far as I know, an average person recovers from jet lag 1 hour a day. Which means that, having 6 hours difference between New York and Barcelona, it will take me about 6 days to adapt to this time zone.
Is there anything you can do to avoid jet lag? I found a few tips that help you cope with jet lag. Some of them are very general, like staying in shape (which works for everything). Nevertheless, there are some precise tips that might make a difference.
It is very important to avoid caffeine and alcoholic beverages before the flight, during the flight, and after. These substances modify and disrupt your sleeping times, which will make it more difficult for you to adapt to the new time zone.
If you're going to spend a long time in the destination, a good idea would be changing your schedule before your trip. For example, in my case, since I'm going from West to East, I should have started pushing my schedule back a few weeks before the trip. I should have gone to sleep a bit later than I usually do, eating later as well, etc. However, depending on your responsibilities, it is not always possible.
During the flight you should start worrying about it. Drink a lot of water, so that your body keeps fully hydrated. If it's a long flight, move around the plane every couple hours, since this will help your blood circulation. Finally, wear comfortable clothes. Don't worry about the looks in an airplane, everyone is to busy thinking of their destination to appreciate your brand new dress. It's important to wear clothes that won't bother you while sitting there for such a long time.
Finally, get out of wherever you are and get some sunlight! It's very important, since the light will affect your internal clock a lot. It tells your body that it should be functioning in "daytime mode". When you stay in dark, your body produces a hormone that makes you feel sleepy, which you don't want in the middle of the day. If your body detects daylight, you won't feel that much sleepy.
One more thing I would add is to use pharmaceutical products wisely. Be very careful with sleeping pills and similar things! I personally use them only as the last source, when I really need them. Further information: http://www.medicinenet.com/jet_lag
Now it's time for me to have breakfast, even though I haven't slept more than 4 hours... But hey, I'll have time to sleep on the beach later! :D I hope you're all having a great summer break, enjoy your earned holidays!!