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By Dr. Amy Shah

Dr. Shah is a renowned double board certified md and nutrition expert at
She is the author of “I’m so effing tired.”

Many of us are busy making travel plans now that vaccines have been rolled out and the COVID-19 pandemic is under control in many parts of the world. Even though many of us are not traveling like we used to, it is important to realize how easily you can sync your circadian rhythms while traveling and that these tricks and tips can be used when traveling regionally, across country, and even to far-off destinations. 

As we all know, nothing can upset your sleep and wake schedule and appetite like stepping on an airplane and jetting off on a vacation. We all have an optimal period where our bodies want to sleep. This is called a circadian window, which is typically between 11pm and 7am. Travel can wreak havoc on your circadian window when you cross two or more time zones in particular. However, there are quick and easy ways to offset this, which can be applied to any trip across any time zone. 

  • The light/dark cycle of the sun has a very powerful effect on our circadian clock, sleeping and eating patterns, and alertness. You can manipulate  light exposure by actually getting outside and making the most of daylight hours upon arrival at your destination. Reset your circadian clock by getting morning sun for a set window of time each day that you are on vacation. If you arrive in the morning, go for a brief walk as the sunlight will be a great reset for your body. Also, getting out in nature has amazing impacts on your hormone levels by naturally decreasing your melatonin and increasing your serotonin. A win-win! 

  • Move your mealtimes to match your new destination. Eating around the clock has many disadvantages, including weight gain and difficulty sleeping. Eating just before bed will stimulate the digestive system and contradict the natural hormone cycles that help you wind down for the day. Adjust your eating to fit your destination, beginning with small meals, smoothies, or fruits and vegetables until your appetite kicks in. Eating at the same time as the locals will help adjust your sleep and wake cycles as well! 

  • Use magnesium or melatonin (or both) two to three hours before bed if you’re having trouble falling asleep. Evidence from small research studies points to melatonin supplements as potential aids in improving the sleep and wake cycle for people with jet lag. Take magnesium or melatonin after dark for a few days after you arrive at your destination to readjust your natural sleep cycle. Upon waking, it is important to supplement melatonin usage with sunlight, exercise, and eating on schedule.

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