Jet lag is a game-changer. It can literally destroy the first few days of your vacation. No one wants to start a getaway feeling exhausted but that can be the harsh reality. The good news is there is a host of ways to kick jet lag to the curb. Make some concessions if traveling across more than two time zones; making changes before you leave and planning for a solid transition can really subside the woes of jet lag and have you at the top of your game, rather than losing it.
8. Kick Off Your Trip Well Rested
Anyone who’s traveled knows that as your departure point nears, things can get really hectic. There’s the planning that goes into your trip, making arrangements for your home while you’re away, organizing and packing your things…and the list goes on! Flying itself can be stressful, especially if you’re taking a long-haul flight. If you leave worn out after a busy final day at home, you won’t be on you’re A-game. Start off on the right foot and leave the final two days prior to your trip free for any last-minute details you’ve missed and to get some proper rest. This way, you’ll leave that last two days free so you’re healthy, rested, and ready to go. Your mind can then readily deal with all the senses you’ll experience once you get away, from possible nerves to the excitement of taking a vacation.
7. Stick to Local Time Upon Arrival
You may have had an uncomfortable flight or not feel well and when you reach your final destination, you’re completely wiped out. This could lead to serious sleep deprivation and all you’ll want to do is get to your hotel and hit the sack. If you arrive in the afternoon, fall into bed and sleep it all off until late at night, you won’t be giving your body a fighting chance. If possible, plan to take a stroll, have a bite to eat, and poke around the neighborhood. Exercise, fresh air, and daylight are the enemies of jet lag. You might pine for sleep but forcing the adjustment to local time is the best way to start off. You might wake up in the wee hours but you’ll slowly transition and make the most of your trip rather than suffering seriously from jet lag.
6. Rest and Reboot on the Flight
Some might scoff at the idea of getting any rest on a flight, especially long, overseas hauls. If you break the six-foot mark, the idea might even be laughable, but there are trusted ways to get some shut-eye. Airlines are notorious for tiny quarters and you could get stuck with the world’s’ worst space hog too. Combat this by choosing your seat ahead of time, even if there’s a small fee to book. Request seating with the most space: book an aisle seat, the bulkhead seat, or a spot away from the restroom so the constant flow of people isn’t bothersome. Pack a sandwich or snack and a large water bottle for ample refills, this way you won’t rely on the airline to keep you fueled. Bring a travel pillow for a better, less neck-breaking rest, and pick up earplugs to block out the world.
5. Don’t Nap
This goes hand-in-hand with getting ample rest before departure time but sits on its own because the strong desire for a nap can grab you anytime, even after jet lag subsides. Sure, traveling the world can be exhausting, and if you’re on an extended vacation napping can be a wondrous afternoon pastime. If you’re only away for a week or so, napping isn’t going to help in the long run. It’s better to skip the immediate gratification and shake off the sleepiness than waste precious exploring time. Arrive in the new time zone and stay up until bedtime. Get a good start the next day because you’ll likely wake early but try to make the most of it and get moving. In order to resist the urge to nap, do something to get your blood pumping naturally such as taking a hike, leisurely walk, or visiting a busy attraction – these can all be keys to keeping your eyes open without toothpicks.
4. Avoid Alcohol
You’ve finally gotten through the long check-in lines, been herded through airport security, and you’re in your seat, anticipating the moment when the Fasten Seatbelt lights turn off so you can order up a cocktail and get busy celebrating. Or you might think that a drink or two is the best option for getting some shut-eye quickly, but it can lead to restless sleep and a pounding head when you wake. The high altitudes planes fly at affect the way alcohol is processed in your body. The alcohol has a stronger effect when you’re up in the air and will bring on some serious dehydration, curbing the sleep process altogether. Enjoying a drink or two is fine, but leave the extra celebrating for when you arrive and grab some water, tea, or juice to keep hydrated while on route—studies show sleep is aided by proper hydration.
3. Plan Ahead and Adjust Your Sleep Cycle
Many studies show that making an effort to adjust to new time zones can work wonders on your well being. Think ahead, figure out the time difference, and adjust sleep times at least a few days before leaving, depending how large the time difference is. The rule of thumb is that if traveling east, try to get to sleep about an hour before your regular bedtime. When traveling west, aim for a later bedtime than usual. Jet lag can leave you feeling destroyed and planning ahead is better for crossing the bridge before you fall off it completely. Adjusting sleep cycles is especially beneficial if you’re flying across more than two different time zones. Just imagine: if you’re flying from North America to Southeast Asia, your days will be flipped completely over and noon will be midnight, which can be hard to deal with.
2. Keep Comfort in Mind
If you think a little bit ahead and plan around the possibility, or inevitability of jet lag, you’ll be doing yourself a really big favor and capitalizing on your vacation time too. If there is a definitive difference in time from Point A to Point B, book a flight that will land in the evening (local time) so you can get straight to sleep. Sure, you’ll feel like you’re squandering the daytime by flying but it’s better to start off in the day than to waste valuable vacation time. If you’re a budget traveler, consider splurging on that first night’s accommodation and book a mid-level hotel or private hostel room for uninterrupted rest. This can mean all the difference between trying to sleep and actually getting to sleep. So can a handy pair of eye shades and earplugs—you’ll block out any distracting light and sound.
1. Get Some Exercise
Exercise benefits your adjustment period no matter how many time zones you fly through. During long layovers, resist urges to nap and walk a few laps through the airport instead. The continual movements help keep your body awake and relieve any aches and pains you’ve come off the plane with. The bright airport lighting will also naturally make your body want to stay awake. Upon landing at your final destination, if you’re arrival time is during daylight hours, getting some exercise is the best way to keep awake and feel refreshed. If your hotel has a pool or a gym, lift some weights or get some cardio in with a swim or a stint on the treadmill. Most people never take advantage of hotel gyms, but they’re not just for keeping the pounds off. You can jump start an exhausted body with just 20 minutes of vigorous exercise.