What do you crave more when you’re on the road: great sex or a great night’s sleep? And would you rather find a sleeping pill or a piece of chocolate on your hotel pillow at night?
The results? Just over half (51 percent) of the respondents (more men then women, interestingly enough) said they’d take the good night’s sleep over sex; and 42 percent said they’d swap the chocolate for a sleeping pill. (Me? Well, that would depend on the quality of the chocolate.) Sixty-two percent of the respondents reported that they regularly take some sort of relaxant, sleep or stress medication when they travel overnight.
No doubt a lot of those little pills are downed in an attempt to avoid jet lag — that disorienting, zombie-like state induced by an airplane trip through multiple time zones. Being fuzzy and unable to concentrate is no fun anytime, but when you’re trying to get the most out a few precious days of vacation or hoping to impress a business associate or potential employer, falling asleep at noon just won’t cut it. So while you probably can’t avoid jet lag altogether, it’s good to know that you can make it go away more swiftly.
How is that possible?
Seattle-based toy designer Art Lockwood thought he’d figured it out. With an important early morning meeting scheduled in New York City, he downed some sleeping pills for the red-eye flight heading east. Unfortunately, he forgot to adjust the dosage for the time change. “I stumbled off the plane, fell back asleep in the first seat I found, and missed the meeting.” A friend of his never even got off the ground. He took a sleeping pill while waiting for his flight to board and fell asleep in the gate area. “They left without him.”
Then there’s this scenario: “Some people take a sleeping pill and there’s an announcement about how the airline regrets to inform you that the plane isn’t leaving,” says Dr. Meir Kryger, director of Sleep Medicine Research and Education at Gaylord Hospital in Wallingford, Conn. “That’s why you shouldn’t take anything unless you’re certain your plane is going to take off.”
A long-time board member of the National Sleep Foundation, Kryger joins others in my MSNBC.com column this week (Keeping your circadian rhythm) who share ideas on how to ward off jet lag by getting sleep on the plane – and how to resynchronize once you’re on the ground.
Tips include well-timed sleeping aids and seat-selection on an airplane to a new software program that tells you when its time to get an extra dose of light and the phone number for the experts at the National Sleep Foundation hotline.