Rebecca Robbins, PhD, sleep expert and postdoctoral researcher at the Brigham and Women’s Hospital and Harvard Medical School, explains that strategic light exposure is one of the best ways to adjust to a new time zone.
“Light is the strongest input to our internal circadian rhythm,” she says. When we have new patterns of light and dark, she says “our body is completely confused about when it’s supposed to be tired, and when it’s supposed to be awake.”
You’ll want to start adjusting to new light patterns before you get to your destination. Here’s where the sunglasses come in. Say you’re flying to London. When you board your late-afternoon flight, it’s already night there. “You want to wear sunglasses [through the airport and on to the plane] to try to start to trick your body that it’s nighttime, so that you might have a better chance of getting sleep on the plane,” she says.
Dr. Robbins also suggests having a bigger meal before you board so you don’t need to stay up to eat dinner, and to wake up a bit earlier they day you fly, so you’re a bit tired. Continue to wear your sunglasses through the flight until you get sleepy, pop on an eye mask, put in your earplugs, and bliss out.
Haven’t seen your sunglasses since August? Keep scrolling, we’ve got you covered.
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