Sleeping Better When Traveling Across Time Zones

Updated May 12, 2022

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Travel and Sleep

For most people, traveling to a place that is far from home is an exciting thing to do. Some people travel to vacation at a new and exciting place, some visit distant relatives, while others travel frequently for work. No matter who you are, flying long distances to different time zones can bring challenges when it comes to getting a good night's sleep. Luckily there are ways to fight sleepiness when traveling.

Change in Light

Lighty exposure has a strong impact on your circadian rhythm or internal clock. According to Verywell Health, traveling to a new time zone changes your exposure to light which causes misalignment of your body’s circadian rhythms. The direction of travel will make affect sleep deprivation. Traveling east is harder than traveling west because it is easier to shift to a later time.

The further you travel, the harder it will be to adjust to the local time of the new location. Traveling across the country will be one thing, traveling across oceans and continents will be another. The faster you travel, the harder the transition will be. Driving in a car will be easiest because you are going much slower while air travel will be most difficult.

Adjusting to New Time Zones

Sometimes there is nothing you can do to avoid the symptoms of jet lag. Here are some tips to make traveling easier.

Adjust Sleep Schedule

After you find out how big the time shift is, adjust your sleep schedule accordingly. If possible go to bed earlier or stay up longer to slowly change your circadian clock so you can sleep at the appropriate time. Avoid sleeping on the plane to make sure that you are tired when you go to bed. In some cases, a short nap can help with the effects of jet lag after a long flight. Do this in reverse when preparing to return home to get better sleep.

Soak Up The Sun

To make yourself feel more awake, try to get 15 to 30 minutes of morning light exposure as soon as you wake up. Taking a walk or going out for breakfast will help. The bright light will help you feel more alert. When stepping off the plane avoid driving or doing any unsafe activities until the jet lag wears off.

Sleep Medication

Over-the-counter sleeping pills such as melatonin may help you adapt to a new time zone. Sleep aids should be a last resort. It should also be used sparingly so you do not become dependent on it.

Traveling with Sleep Apnea

If you suffer from sleep apnea, you might be traveling with a CPAP machine. CPAP Supplies offers some tips on traveling and flying with a machine.

Traveling with Your CPAP

Make sure your equipment is dry before you pack to avoid mold. Make sure you have backup supplies such as a sleep mask in case something is damaged or goes missing. Carry a prescription in case something goes wrong with your machine.

Travel with bottled water in case you cannot get distilled water soon enough Tap water contains minerals that can build up in your machine.

Flying with Your CPAP

To protect your machine from damage, it is always best to take your CPAP on the plane and not put it in your luggage. When taking it through airport security, pack the machine in a clear bag so that it can easily pass through an x-ray scanner. You can request that the TSA agent uses new gloves if your CPAP undergoes an Explosive Trace Detection test.

Do not put your CPAP in your carry-on bag. Since it is medical equipment, airlines cannot legally consider it a carry-on item. Carry CPAP documents in case of a rare event where the flight crew is unfamiliar with the machine. See the link above for additional help.


Traveling across time zones can harm your sleep quality. Take the proper steps to make sure your internal body clock is as closely aligned to the new time zone as you can get it. If you suffer from sleep apnea or some other sleep disorder, take care of your supplies when traveling or taking them through airport security.

About the Author Steven Bieber

Steven Bieber HeadshotSteven is a content writer who recently broke into the mattress industry. In his free time, he enjoys watching football and listening to music.

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