If you’re a frequent traveler, you know what it’s like to jump from one time zone to another, only to get off that plane and get hit with jet lag. Jet lag almost feels like a punishment for your fabulous jet-setting vacations, but the headaches, irritability and general zombie-ness can be annoying. While there is no magical “reset” button, there are some ways to minimize the time it takes for you to adjust your body clock and beat jet lag as quickly as possible. After all, you have places to go and people to see and you don’t have time to waste on naps.
If possible, try booking a flight that will minimize jet lag. If you are flying west, book an afternoon flight. If you are flying east, book a morning flight. Landing at a sensible time will minimize the amount of swearing that happens when you’re landing in a strange country at 3 a.m. completely exhausted.
Depending on your schedule, try shifting your sleep schedule before you even leave on your trip. A few days before you leave, try going to bed one hour earlier or later each day. Try to also move your mealtimes. That might mean a super-early trip to the gym in the morning and going to bed before your favorite TV shows are over but you’ll be grateful when you arrive at your destination feeling a little more prepared to face the world.
Even before you board the plane, adjust your watch to your destination’s local time. It doesn’t seem like much, but every time you glance at your watch, you’re telling your subconscious what time it’s going to be and that will help you mentally prepare before you even land.
Yes, your seat mate will hate you, but being hydrated is worth all those trips to the bathroom. The cabin air pressure is dehydrating, which won’t help your travel hangover and not drinking enough water will leave you with a headache and dry skin. Drink as much water or herbal tea as you can, stay away from sugary juice and coffee and whatever you do, don’t drink alcohol. Sorry, but alcohol will only dehydrate you more and make your jet lag more painful.
During a flight, the only thing happening is either food or a terrible inflight movie. Even though the food isn’t great, it’s something to do, but try to resist eating too much. Heavy meals, especially ones heavy on salt will keep you from getting that much-needed rest. If possible, stick to protein and plant-based foods to beat jet-lag and keep you feeling fresh instead of bloated.
Obviously, this is easier said than done, but if you can get a little shut-eye on the flight, it’ll seriously help your jet lag. Bring an eye mask, earplugs and try to unplug from the what’s happening around you. Just make sure that you’re falling asleep when it’s night time in your destination, not night time at home. However, if it’s daytime at your destination while you’re flying, it might be better to give up sleeping and use the flight time for relaxing or working.
Try to keep the blood flowing during the flight by walking up and down the aisle or doing mini stretches in your seat. Keeping muscle aches away is key for keeping you relaxed and helping you feel a little happier when you actually get off the plane. That doesn’t mean you have to do pushups by the bathroom, just some gentle stretching will help.
Instead of chugging caffeine, go outside! Sunshine acts like a natural stimulant that triggers your body into “waking up” and reseting your internal clock. If you arrive at your destination during the day, get as much light exposure as you possibly can. Go for a walk or relax by the pool- the more natural light you can get when you first arrive, the quicker you’ll get over jet lag.
If it’s still light when you land, fight the urge to instantly pass out. Push through your fatigue by doing an activity you’ve been looking forward to or just walking the streets and exploring. Then once the sun is setting, head back to your hotel to get some rest and get your circadian rhythm off on the right foot.
After a long flight, sometimes it’s really hard to unwind and fall asleep. Instead of resorting to sleeping pills, draw yourself a bath when you get to the hotel and treat yourself to some quiet time. If there isn’t a tub, drink a warm cup of tea. Don’t resort to the mini bar, since alcohol won’t help with that groggy feeling the next morning. Save the wine for the following night, once you’re feeling better than ever.