Controlling Exposure to Light Will Help You Beat Jet Lag

Your body takes a lot of cues from exposure to light and dark. If you're jumping multiple timezones in one trip, try to control your exposure for the first few days in order to adapt.

Hopping multiple time zones in one trip can be brutal on your sleep schedule, which means that when you should be enjoying your vacation or preparing for business meetings, you're instead fighting fatigue and exhaustion.


Board-certified sleep physician Timothy Morgenthaler recently penned an article for The Huffington Post offering advice for warding off these sorts of jet lag symptoms. While some of his tips are fairly typical -- start well-rested, don't get dehydrated on the plane, etc -- the most notable one isn't as commonly put into practice as the others: control your exposure to light and dark.

"By exposing yourself to light or darkness at strategic times upon arrival at your destination, you can help your body to gradually ease into the new time zone and minimize these symptoms... Light is one of the biggest influences on your body's natural clock, so use natural light and sunshades to your advantage."

There are two different approaches to managing your light. Choosing which one works for you depends on if you've traveled west or east. For example, here are Morgenthaler's strategies for traveling 6 hours either way:

For the westering sort, avoid light in the early morning by wearing sunglasses and sleeping in a dark room. Then, expose yourself to as much light as possible from 5-10 p.m. If you've just traveled east (especially on a dreaded red eye flight), avoid bright lights until the late morning, then expose yourself to four hours' worth of brightness in the early afternoon.

The trick then is to stagger exposure day-by-day until you've reached an equilibrium. That means each day after traveling west, you'll want to push your light exposure forward an hour each day. For those who've gone east, push your exposure back an hour.

For more tips, read on at the Huffington Post

Photo credit: Alex James Bramwell / Shutterstock

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