Changing time zones disrupt your sleep and eating patterns causing jet lag. Rather than wander through your next trip like a zombie, you can take some action steps to beat jet lag. Here are a few ways that I combat jet lag when traveling.
Ways to get the upper hand on jet lag before you leave
In order to reduce the amount of grogginess you may feel with jet lag, you have to start adjusting your body before your trip. This means a change in schedule and habits to help move to a new time zone.
Shift your time zone early
Slowly start moving your clock forwards or back, depending on where you are traveling too. Wake up earlier and go to bed later. This is the most challenging when you head out to a time zone that is six to eight hours difference. Aim to adjust your clocks by at least half the time prior to your trip.
Adjust your Mealtimes
Along with adjusting your own time clock, it is just as important to adjust your mealtimes. When your body takes in food, it assumes you are up, awake, moving and using that fuel. Adjust your meals to align with you destination as closely as possible. I will typically try to do this two days before the trip. Sometimes this means I skip the plane food too, and wait to eat till I know I am on the destination time zone.
Give yourself time
I know this is a luxury. If you can, give yourself one day with no plans upon arrival. If you can fly out earlier, even on a weekend for a work trip, this is ideal for adjustment. Take a day to sleep when it is appropriate, rest, drink tons of water, and move a little. Giving yourself time to adjust to the new time zone is one of the best ways I have found to beat jet lag.
Ways to beat jet lag in flight
Flights can be long and tedious. Especially long haul international flights that can go on for 12-16 hours (or longer). Having an inflight routine that keeps your body healthy, alert, and of course catching some snoozes will mean you are one step ahead of jet lag.
First rule is to only drink water. Water will help keep you comfortable on a long haul flight. Not only do I swell up less, but I entirely avoid muscle cramps when I am drinking enough water. Sugar is inflammatory and when sitting for long periods of time you want to avoid this at all costs. Alcohol is known to regularly mess with our sleep patterns when at home. So don’t partake in it on the flight or the day prior. Keep yourself hydrated. Ask for some soda water if you want a little fizz in your life.
In flight wind down routine
I am a huge fan of in flight “bedtime” rituals. Every time I take an international trip I pack a small little pouch with my nighttime essentials. Toothbrush and toothpaste, face wash or face wipes, little bit of lotion, face moisturizer. I will stay awake until the destination time zone bed time. Then I will make my way to the restroom and “get ready for bed”. I know it is a tiny bathroom, but grab a wet one from your purse and wipe it down then do your thing. I have found this ritual sets my mind at ease and makes it easier to fall asleep since it aligns with what I do at home.
Eye Mask and Ear Plugs
If you travel without these, I don’t know how you do it. I always bring my eye mask and a little pack of ear plugs on every flight-even the short ones. I know they often provide these for international flights, but the ear plugs they give me never work. Invest in what works for you to actually allow some sleep.
An honorable mention to the neck pillow should also be included in here. I am still searching for one that is worth packing and not too bulky. Drop your suggestions below!
A signal to your body that it is time to sleep is a drop in temperature. So take off your sweater and scarf and turn on your AC air for about 10 minutes before trying to sleep. Leave the air on, and then bundle back up like you are getting under the covers.
Melatonin or Tylenol PM
If you truly struggle to sleep on a plane, consider an over the counter medication that can help put you to sleep. Melatonin is a hormone that is naturally produced by the body. It helps to control your sleep cycles and they have made it into a pill. I know, modern medicine is amazing. You do not need a large amount, so double check the dosing on the bottle.
If you have been known to have foot cramps or neck pain from being in a plane and trouble sleeping, then you may want to try Tylenol PM or the off brand of this. It contains an antihistamine which causes some drowsiness and can help you fall asleep. Be careful not to take this unless you are settling in for a good nap, because taking it and waking in two hours to get off the plane can increase your feelings of jet lag.
Ways to avoid feeling jet lag when you arrive
Upon arrival you can take some additional steps (literally) to make sure you tell your body exactly what time it is. I found that if I can book a flight to arrive in the afternoon, this best fits my needs for adjusting. However, when I travel hack the flight times can be brutal. Keep these tricks up your sleeve to beat the jet lag once and for all.
Keep Your Body Moving
Moving will increase blood flow, help to flush out stagnancy from the plane, and increase your metabolism. After you make your way to the hotel or AirBnB, take a 15-20 minutes to go on a walk around the area or do some yoga. You do not have to go lift weights or run a mile as this may put too much strain on your body. Opt for movement instead of sitting at a restaurant right away.
The movement will also help your body go to sleep later on. Exhaustion can be a good thing in this way.
Plan on staying up until bedtime
If you can, avoid the temptation to take a nap. Hopefully, you were able to sleep on the plane. If not, do your best to stay moving and not sleep until it’s actually
Keep drinking water
I know, I am a bit obsessed with the water thing. The fact is we don’t typically drink enough water to begin with, and it is so important to helping your body function and stay clear headed. So keep asking for water that first day you arrive instead of downing the margarita.
If you practice yoga, you may already have done some breathing exercises at this point. I highly recommend some deep breathing when getting off the plane. The air in a plane can leave us a bit oxygen depleted, not to mention we slump in the seats which causes shallow breathing. Take a few minutes to breathe deeply. I typically do this when I use the restroom straight off the plane. It helps me to feel a little more human.
Enjoy your next trip!
If you are like me, you don’t want jet lag to slow you down or stop you from enjoying your trip. I still feel the effects, but in a minor capacity, and I am able to enjoy my trip with a bit more pep in the step.
Where are you off to? How do you beat jet lag? Any secret remedies I did not mention?