One of the pesky after-affects of travel is the dreaded JET LAG. It’s that feeling that you’ll never sleep past 3am again, that you’ll never adjust to local time, that you’ll ruin all of your vacation plans by being drowsy and feeling lousy.
But it doesn’t have to be that way! There are very practical and easy ways to prevent and minimize jet lag from occurring, and if you do start to feel the repercussions of your rapid journey across multiple time zones there are ways to minimize the affects of jet lag.
Of course, part of dealing with your jet lag is figuring out what works for you. So try some or all of these suggestions and determine what strategies will keep you from feeling like a zombie during and after your trip. It’s much easier to adjust when you’re well-prepared and have a plan to stay on top of the tiredness.
How to Beat Jet Lag
How to Beat Jet Lag
Prepare to Beat Jet Lag Before Leaving Home:
- The week before your trip, get plenty of sleep, eat well and avoid situations where you might pick something up. Contracting a cold before you leave home is just bad news!
- Consider moving your bed time one hour each day for a few days to prepare for the earlier or later wake up time at your destination.
- Some travelers find it useful to take melatonin supplements starting a week before departure, one to two hours before bedtime. It may help your body adjust to changes in your sleeping schedule.
- Eat Carbohydrates. A new study shows that the release of insulin may help with re-establishing your internal clock. Eat a carb-heavy dinner when traveling eastward and a carb-heavy breakfast when heading westward.
- Don’t stay up late the night before your flight. Starting out with a deficit is a terrible idea.
- Make sure you pack well in advance and are not stressed out. Relax, clear your mind, get plenty of sleep.
- Take a supplement like 1Above that is scientifically formulated to ease the affects of jetlag and reduces the mental and physical stress of traveling.
- Set your watch to the local time at your destination and start thinking in terms of what time it is there to prepare your mind. This will help you plan your sleeping and eating once you arrive.
- Sleep on the plane, but only if it’s an overnight flight or you’re arriving at your destination in the morning. If you sleep on a daytime flight and get there in the evening, or you don’t sleep on an overnight flight that arrives in the morning, you’re setting yourself up for major jet lag. Put some thought into naps before you take them. Set an alarm to avoid over sleeping.
- Drink enough water to stay hydrated, but not so much that you interrupt your sleep with bathroom breaks. It is especially important to stay hydrated on long plane journeys.
- Take a sleep aid when you board the plane. We like ZzzQuil because it’s not habit forming and it works quickly. Avoid taking anything if your flight is less than 10 hours. Another popular option is Luna (the #1 sleep aid sold on Amazon). It’s a non habit forming vegan capsule that contains herbal ingredients like melatonin.
- If the overnight flight is less than 10 hours, skip the first food/drink service and go to sleep instead. First and last services take up 2 hours on either end of your flight. If you stay up, you’ll be left with only a couple hours of sleep. Use a travel eye mask and earplug set to shut out stimulation that keeps you awake.
While At Your Destination:
- When you arrive, avoid the desire to nap, unless it’s before noon. If you arrive after noon, it’s best to get right into your itinerary. Don’t take a nap in the afternoon! When you’re sleep deprived, it’s tempting to take a nap, but even a short nap can disrupt your ability to acclimate to the new time, and usually your body can’t take a short catnap when it’s that tired.
- Stay up until a reasonable bedtime. If you can only make it until 8pm, that’s fine. But it’s better to stay up as late as you can than napping and ruining your sleep cycle.
- Drink plenty of water. This is one of the hardest to follow for me because I’m always avoiding drinking tap water in other countries, but to avoid jet lag it’s important to stay hydrated, so buy a couple of large bottles of water for your hotel room and drink up.
- Get plenty of sunlight. Daytime light and sun can help diminish the feeling of being tired and weary, so get outside as much as possible.
I always find that the worst jet lag comes when flying west. If you live in the United States, it’s fairly likely that jet lag will be worse when arriving back home. Here are some tips for returning home:
- Don’t sleep on the plane unless it coincides with your bedtime back home. If you must, keep it to a short nap early on in the flight.
- Resist the urge to nap once you’ve arrived home. Try to make it to bedtime, even if you have to move your normal bedtime up a couple hours.
- Stay as active as possible to keep blood flowing and to avoid thoughts of jet lag and tiredness. Sitting down to watch TV is not a great idea, nor is drinking too much. Get out and walk or do something stimulating.
- If you wake up in the middle of the night, don’t get up right away. Try to return to sleep. If you can’t get back to sleep, get up, but keep the lights dimmed and only do low-energy activities like reading or watching tv. Believe me, if you wake up at 3am and turn on the lights, it will take a much longer time to get back to normal sleep.
- Return to your normal schedule slowly. Just as you may have adjusted your sleep schedule before you left, you may also have to ease back into your normal schedule. You can easily get back to normal by adjusting your bedtime by 15 to 30 minutes each night.
If you do your best to follow the suggestions laid out above, you’ll be on the right path to preventing jet lag like a professional traveler!
Do you have additional tips for preventing jet lag? Tell us about them in the comments.
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Laura Lynch, creator and writer of Savored Journeys, is an avid world traveler, certified wine expert, and international food specialist. She has written about travel and food for over 20 years and has visited 70+ countries.