One of the easiest ways to derail a trip that involves air travel is to fail to account for the impact of jet lag, which can leave you feeling tired, confused, jittery and worse, once you’ve landed at your destination. Fortunately though, there are ways to prepare for your trip and manage it once it’s underway that can greatly help in thwarting jet lag’s many less-than-enjoyable symptoms.
Jet lag—broadly used to describe a series of physical and mental effects, triggered by flying through one or more time zones—is caused by an imbalance in the body’s circadian rhythms, which are thrown off by the change in the timing of your daily schedule. Here are 10 highly effective ways of winning the jet lag battle, largely by planning for the change and adapting to the time difference:
1 Hit The Ground RunningA key technique for combatting the effects of jet lag is to land at your destination during daylight hours or the early evening, and then spend the remainder of the day there as normal, before turning in around 10 p.m. local time. If you need to nap during the first day, be sure to set an alarm and sleep no longer than two hours.
2 Prep Your BodyIn the days leading up to your trip, get your body used to the new routine. If you’ll be heading west, get up and go to bed later than usual, and earlier if you’ll be traveling east. You may even want to start eating meals at the appropriate times for the new time zone where you’ll be traveling.
3 Get In SynchOnce you board your plane, set your watch to the local time at your destination. (That is, if you still wear a watch.)
4 Drink SmartBe careful of what you drink during your trip. Alcohol will increase feelings of tiredness and causes dehydration, which will amplify the effects of jet lag. Caffeine-rich drinks like coffee, soda and energy drinks, meanwhile, will over-stimulate the body and impact your ability to sleep later, thereby slowing your jet lag recovery time. Choose water instead, as keeping hydrated will have a positive effect.
5 Eat Light (At First)Dining is a common highlight for travelers, but it’s a good idea to wait until you’ve acclimated to your new locale before overindulging. A light meal or snack (that doesn’t include chocolate) is best upon arrival at your destination.
6 Tune OutWhether you’re sleeping on the plane or in a hotel room, sleep isolation gear like a blindfold and ear plugs can be a huge help for falling and staying asleep, especially in noisy situations and sunny places.
7 Bask in the RaysSunlight has a huge effect on biological rhythms. So when combatting jet lag, try to get as much sun as possible, versus staying indoors, which will only worsen jet lag symptoms.
8 Don’t Self-MedicateSleeping pills may be helpful later in the trip, if you can’t sleep at your destination, but popping them on the plane won’t help your jet lag. They’ll just make you foggy when you land, which is not the best time for feeling drowsy.
9 Move AroundMake an effort to move regularly during your flight, especially if it’s a long one. Getting some exercise at your destination can help, too. Wearing a pair of flight socks will also help with physical issues from flying like deep vein thrombosis (DVT) and slowed circulation, which is a common jet lag symptom.
10 Sleep… And Sleep Some MoreHealthy sleep is another huge part of overcoming jet lag. That starts with getting a good night’s sleep before your flight. Don’t stay up late packing, stressing or partying beforehand, and don’t try and “tire yourself out” before boarding. And once you’ve landed, try and get as much sleep that night as you normally would at home. If you’ve missed some sleep along the way, give yourself permission for a short nap.