Many people don’t know how to prepare for a time zone change and suffer from an interrupted sleep pattern and its side effects when faced with one.
Preparing your body and mind for a change in time zone can help minimize the impacts of jet lag and help you get back to your normal sleep pattern.
Certain vitamins and supplements may help support your circadian rhythm, which is your body’s natural sleep-wake cycle that depends on light and dark.
Picture it. After a multi-hour flight from home to your tropical destination for the week ahead, you’ve just settled into your cozy hotel bed with the fluffy pillows and luxurious comforter. You feel exhausted, but the timezone difference means it’s really only 3:00 in the afternoon back home, even though it’s pitch black here. Seeing as you have to get up for the day in a few hours, you should really try and get some shut-eye, but your body is fighting it.
Sound familiar? Whether it’s a dramatic shift in time zones due to travel like this or the twice-a-year one-hour time change for daylight savings, our bodies struggle to make the adjustment.
It makes sense, as having an inconsistent sleep schedule is the opposite of what we need to support our health and wellness. Not getting enough sleep, especially not consistently, can lead to a number of struggles. For instance, lack of sleep can promote tiredness throughout the day, a short fuse, moodiness, and low productivity. Not to mention, feeling groggy and jet-lagged can really ruin a vacation.
Nobody likes to feel poorly rested. Keep reading if you’re wondering how to prepare for a time zone change and if there are ways to get better sleep when things get disrupted.
Whether traveling or trying to adapt to a daylight savings time change, any disruption in your regular sleep pattern can throw you off.
Long plane rides can take a toll on your physical and mental wellness. After all, being stuck in a seat for a prolonged period without your usual access to food and water can make anyone grumpy. For many people, the travel itself can make symptoms of jet lag worse.
Symptoms of jet lag might include: 
Of course, a long travel day isn’t the only thing that can disrupt your sleep pattern. Many people experience struggles due to the daylight savings time changes that have occurred twice a year in most of the United States since the mid-1960s.
Daylight savings time changes can promote:
Why does sleep disruption have such a big impact on us? It has to do with how we’re wired. The circadian rhythm pilots humans and other mammals. This is the 24-hour sleep and wake cycle that we live by. It also guides things like our mood and appetite throughout the day and night.
The circadian rhythm is synchronized with the light and darkness that encompasses each day, so when it gets disrupted, this can trigger a whole slew of struggles for us.
Now that you know how time zone changes can affect you, you’re probably wondering how to minimize the impacts next time you face one. Here are some tips to help you prepare and, hopefully, continue to rest easy and rebalance a disrupted sleep pattern.
As much as possible, plan ahead for your time change to make it less of a shock to your brain and body. For instance, if you know that you will be waking up two hours earlier than you normally do, gradually train your body to start waking up slightly early every day until then.
Wake With the Light
Your circadian rhythm depends on the natural light and dark cycle to help you rest and wake up around the same times every day.  That’s why ensuring you get light exposure upon waking is one of the most important things you can do to help your brain get used to waking at a new time. This could mean natural sunlight if you can access a window or a porch to step outdoors or use a supplemental full-spectrum light that mimics sunlight.
Stay Awake Longer
If your sleep pattern is out of whack, you can try to extend your awake period to help your body crave sleep more. Skip the afternoon nap and stay awake a bit later than usual so your brain is ready to shut down, preventing lying awake in your bed for hours.
Avoid Blue Light at Night
Blue light is emitted from the screens of our computers, televisions, phones, and other electronic devices. Research shows it can prevent and delay Melatonin release when used too close to bedtime because it tricks your brain into thinking it’s still daytime.  Avoid screens at bedtime and use blue-light-blocking glasses if using screens later in the day.
Skip the Afternoon Coffee
Caffeine is a nervous system stimulant in beverages like soda, caffeinated tea, and coffee. While many people drink it in the morning to wake up, drinking it later in the day can make it harder for you to fall asleep at your normal time. One older study found that even consuming caffeine 6 hours before bedtime could negatively impact sleep. 
The Role of Vitamins and Supplements to Manage Sleep
In addition to the tips above, certain vitamins and supplements may help support your body’s natural rhythms and help alleviate symptoms of jet lag or daylight savings grogginess.
Because sleep disruption is tied to your circadian rhythm, it’s most effective to consider supplements that may help support your body’s natural sleep cadence. This includes the compounds that are naturally involved in your sleep-wake cycle, such as Melatonin.
Melatonin is a hormone produced by your brain and released later in the day when the sun is preparing to go down, and your body is preparing for rest. Your Melatonin levels decrease toward the morning when it’s time to start waking up.
As we get older, Melatonin production naturally declines. Many people find that temporarily adding a Melatonin supplement during poor sleep or in preparation for sleep disruptions is helpful to keep their circadian rhythm on track as much as possible. Because Melatonin resets your sleep cycle, those who take a Melatonin supplement during travel may find that it helps them get used to that time zone change a little easier.
While there’s no standard Melatonin dosage, 1-6 mg per day is generally recommended for adults and has been found to be effective for many people.  Research has found that only mild side effects are common in temporary Melatonin use, such as nausea, dizziness, headache, and sleepiness, though not everyone experiences these. 
Nature Made offers a line of Melatonin supplements with various dosages, including an extended-release product to occasionally help you fall asleep faster and stay asleep longer.† For children, try Nature Made Kids First® Sleep Gummies, providing 1 mg of Melatonin in each strawberry-flavored gummy. It's a drug-free way to occasionally support your child's rest.†
Lauren specializes in plant-based living and vegan and vegetarian diets for all ages. She also enjoys writing about parenting and a wide variety of health, environmental, and nutrition topics. Find her at www.laurenpanoff.com.