How to Use Sleep Aids to Avoid Jet Lag
Sleep is a precious commodity on normal days, and even moreso on the road. It may be hard to make it to the office after a bad night, but it’s even harder to go from sunrise to sunset among the temples of Angkor if you’ve already been up for three hours.
Start by improving your sleep hygiene at home before a trip. You can train yourself to go to bed roughly an hour earlier each night if you’re anticipating a time change, with apps like Timeshifter to help you get onto your new schedule. Try to minimize large meals within two hours of bedtime and screen time within an hour before tucking in. If you get used to a standard sleep routine before your travels, whether it’s a book, cup of tea, or essential oils spritzed on your pillow, it will be easier to signal to your body that it’s time to go to bed in a new location by following the same steps.
“Sleeping well is a challenge for many travelers; however, the solution doesn’t come in a bottle,” said Dr. Jennifer Martin, clinical psychologist and behavioral sleep medicine specialist with the California Health & Longevity Institute. “I always encourage people to think about what makes sleeping at home so much better, and bring as much of that experience with you as possible.”
Once you arrive at your destination, use an eye mask and earplugs to minimize any external interruptions and utilize the same routine you trained yourself into at home. If you’ve tried all this and you’re still tossing and turning, you may want to reach for some of these natural or over-the-counter remedies, but proceed carefully.
Self-described “blogger by day, physician by night” Dr. Nadeen White of The Sophisticated Life recommends testing out any sleep supplements at home before bringing them on the road, as you never know exactly how something new will affect you.
“Melatonin can be used to change the timing of a person’s circadian rhythms, but when taken at the wrong time, it can actually shift sleep timing in the wrong direction,” said Dr. Martin. “Using melatonin correctly is not easy and often requires input from a sleep specialist. The science to support other herbal remedies is thin, and some can interact with prescription drugs so should be used with caution and only after consulting with a doctor.”
No sleep aid is totally guaranteed to be without potential side effects or other drug interactions, and anything classified as a “dietary supplement” isn’t subject to the same level of FDA oversight as conventional food and drugs. Make sure to check with your physician before you start sampling.
Hyland’s Calms Forte
Hyland’s uses a blend of herbal supplements to help encourage relaxation.
To buy: amazon.com, $10
Genius Sleep Aid
Olly Restful Sleep
Part of Olly’s larger gummy supplement line, the Restful Sleep melatonin gummies are a favorite of T+L editors and a top Amazon seller in the sleep aid category for their combination of active ingredients and well-crafted formula.
To buy: amazon.com, $13
Bach Rescue Sleep
This chewable natural supplement uses melatonin and naturally soothing lavender and chamomile to help send you off to sleep.
To buy: amazon.com, $17
Zarbee’s Naturals Children’s Sleep
Another Amazon top seller, these gummies work with just one milligram of melatonin to start off slowly.
To buy: amazon.com, $12
Good Day Chocolates Sleep Supplement
Prefer chocolate over gummies? These also offer one milligram of melatonin per piece along with chamomile extract in an M&M-like shell.
To buy: amazon.com, $18
The Dodow sleep device helps you drop off using exercises to slow your breathing in sync with its light projections. “I honestly did not expect this device to be so effective for me,” said Mina Agnos, president of Travelive. “By focusing on the light patterns, I can easily fall asleep within the eight-minute cycle.”
To buy: amazon.com, $60
In addition to melatonin and herbal extracts, Luna also contains L-Theanine, an amino acid most commonly found in tea leaves and believed to promote relaxation, and GABA (Gamma-Aminobutyric acid), an amino acid that naturally occurs in the brain and reduces neural activity, also leading to a calmer mental state.
To buy: amazon.com, $22
The main ingredient in Alteril is L-Tryptophan, which may sound familiar as the reason people believe Thanksgiving dinner makes you sleepy. It’s actually another amino acid used in protein synthesis and the production of serotonin, which is then associated with sleep and melatonin levels.
To buy: amazon.com, $18
If you want to start simple, try introducing evening teatime with a relaxing blend like Yogi Bedtime or the classic Sleepytime tea. Look for ingredients like chamomile, valerian, and passiflora/passionflower and incorporate the tea into your routine as a sensory cue for your system that it’s time for bed.
To buy: amazon.com, $17
This Works Deep Sleep Pillow Spray
Relaxing smells like lavender can help you unwind and also help condition your brain into sleep mode, especially if you work them into your bedtime ritual at home.
To buy: ulta.com, $29
Unisom Sleep Tabs
Rather than diphenhydramine, Unisom uses doxylamine succinate, a different variation of antihistamine, to induce drowsiness.
To buy: amazon.com, $8
“Most over-the-counter sleep aids contain antihistamines, which make people feel sleepy as a ‘side effect.’ The bad news about these medications is that they lose their effectiveness quickly and some people experience side effects,” said Dr. Martin.
Equate contains diphenhydramine, an antihistamine that’s also one of the active ingredients in Benadryl, to induce drowsiness. The American Academy of Sleep Medicine doesn’t recommend diphenhydramine as a sleep aid, finding it didn’t show a significant improvement over placebo trials and adds a risk of side effects and morning grogginess, but many consumers start here.
To buy: amazon.com, from $8
Another diphenhydramine product that pulls out the active ingredients from the Nyquil product line, minimizing the other compounds to just focus on the one that will help you sleep.
To buy: amazon.com, $14