Pathways to Sleep: I-E. From Health to Sleep–Time Zone Challenges
Put simply, it all begins with the disrupted circadian rhythm and that powerful force of sunrise and sunset, but soon evolves into a much more complex and often rather elusive set of factors that make it hard to sleep when traveling – whether or business or pleasure. What then are the pathways that can be of greatest assistance in helping us achieve a high quality of sleep even when “on the road”? I would suggest that there are three major pathways. One of these I label gradualism, the second being the enroute pathway and the third being a pathway I call accommodation. I will briefly describe each one.
We know from research on Jet Lag that it usually takes one day to adjust to each time zone change. Thus, if we are traveling across two time zones then it would take us two days to adjust to the new location. With regard to sleep, this means that we are likely to find it a bit difficult to fall asleep and stay asleep for a couple of days, given the two zone move. This, of course, is assuming that the two zone shift has occurred over a short period of time (through jet travel). If we are driving through the two zones, then the adjustment is much easier. Furthermore, it is assuming that one’s travel is East to West of the other way around. There is a whole different set of factors operating when the travel is North to South (within the same time zone). The change in this case often concerns not the circadian rhythm, but rather shifts in temperature (as well as the other changes already mentioned).
If there will be a circadian challenge associated with your challenge, then the experts rightfully suggest that you begin to adjust your sleep habits to the time zone in which you will eventually land. Let’s say that you are planning to end up in a time zone that is three hours ahead of you (it is 10pm in this location but only 7pm where you are now residing). This would mean that you go to sleep one hour earlier each night for three days. Instead of going to sleep at 9pm on the first night you snuggle into bed at 8pm and then 7pm on the second night and even 6pm on the third night.