The good news for many older adults is they have the time and money to vacation to exotic places halfway around the world. The bad news is jet lag worsens as you get older.
Jet lag most often occurs when a person travels on a plane to a location more than five time zones away. Its most common symptom is sleeping when you're not supposed to — you sleep during the day or are awake in the middle of the night.
Other symptoms include irritability, fatigue, problems in functioning or concentrating, disorientation, mild sadness, headaches, constipation and/or diarrhea. It's worse for frequent travelers and those who don't sleep enough during a flight; are flying east or crossing multiple time zones.
Adjusting your normal sleeping times a few days before leaving can help reset your time clock.
If you're traveling to Europe, go to bed two hours earlier and soak up some sunlight early in the morning. If you're flying west, try going to sleep two hours later and be in bright light in the evening. When you arrive at your destination, get out in the sunlight as much as possible in the morning.
During your flight, drink as much water as possible and avoid caffeine and alcohol because dehydration worsens jet lag symptoms. Try to sleep on the plane so you do not arrive exhausted. If you are going to use a sleeping pill take a short acting one, such as Sonata, instead of a longer acting one, which may make you groggy and disorientated.
For the first few days after you arrive at your destination, try taking a power nap — less than an hour — when you are most tired. Go to sleep at night as late as possible. If you cannot get to sleep, consider taking a sleeping tablet but avoid over-the-counter sleep medications..
Melatonin in a dose of 0.5 mg just before bedtime also may help you sleep. Higher doses may cause some disorientation and dizziness.
Don't let jet lag ruin your vacation of a lifetime. With a few simple adjustments, you can be ready to enjoy your time away. Bon voyage!
SLUCare physician John Morley is director of geriatrics at St. Louis University and a geriatrician at St. Louis VA Medical Center. Email him at email@example.com. The Aging Successfully column for seniors rotates each week with XX Files, a women's health column.