How to fight jet lag (naps are good)

Jet lag — feeling groggy during the day and awake come bedtime — is undoubtedly a nuisance, and travelers who get hit with it are not rare.

“Jet lag affects most people who travel to different time zones, even if that difference is only an hour or two,” said Dr. Charles Czeisler, the director of sleep and circadian disorders at Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston.

There are strategies to make the transition to that new time less painful. Czeisler shares his top ones below:

— For Small Time Changes, Prepare Your Body Before Traveling

If you’re heading someplace that has only a few hours’ time difference compared with where you live, Czeisler suggested shifting your body clock closer to the new time zone a few days before your trip. If you live in New York, for example, and are going to Los Angeles, which is three hours behind, go to bed an hour later and sleep in an hour later than you usually do, if possible. “Even easing into your destination one-third of the way beforehand will make it easier for you to adjust when you’re there,” he said.

— For Bigger Time Differences, Consider Melatonin

Melatonin is a hormone produced in the brain that facilitates our ability to sleep, especially if you need to go to bed earlier than you usually do. Czeisler said that a melatonin supplement can help quiet the brain and silence the signal that you need to be awake; he recommended taking it in your new time zone a half-hour or so before you want to go to sleep. He said that Pure Encapsulations, a company with which he has no affiliation, makes a pharmaceutical grade, high-quality version; melatonin is also sold at drugstores and health food stores.

— Rely on Light and Naps

Exposing yourself to as much natural light as possible in your new time zone helps reset your biological clock to that destination, Czeisler said. If you can’t get outside, artificial light, such as a brightly lit room, also helps as long as it’s daytime, not night. He also suggested trying Entrain, a free app that makes lighting recommendations to help you adjust to your new destination. And, despite what travelers may have heard about avoiding naps if they’re trying to beat jet lag, he said that a 30-minute to hourlong snooze is actually beneficial because it gives you enough energy to stay awake through the day but still get a good night’s rest.

— Watch Your Diet

What you eat and drink matters when it comes to jet lag. Beware if you ply yourself with caffeinated drinks throughout the day in an attempt to stay awake; Czeisler said that half the amount of caffeine you consume stays in your system for 6 to 9 hours and can interfere with a good night’s rest. Other dietary sleep disrupters include alcohol and rich meals too close to bedtime.