Lack of restorative sleep time can have a huge impact on your wellbeing. During this time of year - with travels and holiday festivities - your normal sleeping pattern may have been thrown off. Because getting restorative sleep can be hard during this period, I thought I would do some research on what science has to say about the impact of jet lag on circadian rhythms and more. I collected a lot of great information, but wanted to keep the list short for this post. With the intention of being succinct, I am sharing with you 5 evidence-based approaches to help you recover and minimize the effects of feeling jet lag and changes in your circadian rhythm. May you rest better after reading these tips!
1. Expose yourself to natural light during the morning
Natural light can help you rebalance your circadian rhythms by exposing yourself to blue light. Additionally, being exposed to ultraviolet light can help your skin produce vitamin D - a natural anti-inflammatory chemical. Two great reasons to go for a walk or to work outdoors in the morning!
2. Take a warm shower or bath in the evening
Research has shown that lower environmental temperatures at night may help prepare the body for sleep. The drop in your body temperature after taking a warm shower or bath may help induce sleep.
3. Minimize your exposure to blue light for at least 2 hours before sleep
Commit to not using any electronic devices that emit blue light close to bedtime. Blue light can stimulate your nervous system, so that it is harder to go asleep. You can use a free program called f.lux on your computer, if you cannot help but use your electronic devices. You can also buy amber glasses, like Gunnars, to do the same trick.
4. Practice meditation and yoga
Research has shown certain forms of meditations and yoga may help with sleep by increasing melotonin levels. Melatonin is a powerful antioxidant and seems to help trigger restorative sleep. If you want a guided meditation practice, you can check out one of my youtube meditation sessions or practice the below meditation practice. Otherwise, practice something you already know. Note: keep it simple and practical since you are already jet lagged, in other words feeling stressed out.
Breath and Attention Meditation Exercise
Feel free to sit or be in any position that feels comfortable to you. You are welcome to have your eyes closed or opened (with opened eyes make sure you are facing something like a plain wall to minimize your distractions).
1. Inhale 1, exhale 1
2. Inhale 2, exhale 2
3. Inhale 3, exhale 3
Repeat up to 21 times. If you lose count, start over again. You can use a timer and set it for seven minutes. In general, 15-20 minutes of meditation a day is supported by research to reduce stress. I recommend starting with what you already practice. If you have never meditated before, start with maybe 5 breaths or 1 minute of meditation. Over time, you will develop your meditation muscles and be able to practice longer and reap more benefits from your practice.
5. Improve your digestion
With changes in circadian rhythms, metabolism can be disrupted (ex. liver metabolism, bile function, and fat digestion). Make sure you chew your food thoroughly to promote better digestion and to balance the lag in your digestive organs. Avoid or reduce your alcohol intake as well.
Yetish, G., Kaplan H., Gurven M., Wood B., Pontzer, H., Manger P.R., Wilson C., McGregor R., Siegel J.M. Natural Sleep and Its Seasonal Variations in Three Pre-Industrial Societies. Current Biology, November 2015, 25(21): 2862-8.
Smolensky, M.H., Sackett-Lundeen L.L., Portaluppi F. Noctunal Light Pollution and Underexposure to Daytime Sunlight: Complementary Mechanishms of Circadian Disruption and Related Diseases. Chronobiology International, October 2015 32(8): 1029-48
Tooley, G. A., S. M. Armstrong, T. R. Norman, and A. Sali. Acute increases in night- time plasma melatonin levels following a period of meditation. Biological Psychology, May 2000, 53(1):69-78.
Ge W, Chen G, Ding Y-T. Effect of chewing gum on the postoperative recovery of gastrointestinal function. International Journal of Clinical and Experimental Medicine. 2015;8(8):11936-11942.