As we start to ease back into international travel, we know that there will be longer lines and more protocols to deal with. We will have to arrive at the airport earlier and spend more time getting to our destination. All of these things add to the travel day and the last thing you want to deal with is more jet lag.
When flying into a new time zone, the biorhythmic confusion known as jet lag is inevitable, but if you know how to minimize the symptoms it can make that first day in your destination a lot more enjoyable.
Over the years of crisis-crossing time zones, we have learned some great ways to beat jet lag and these really do work. Also read: What to Expect When Traveling During COVID-19
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Jet Lag Tips
Jet lag can happen even on trips that are only a few hours in length. It is all based on your circadian rhythm, otherwise known as your “body clock”. When your sleep and wake patterns are disrupted this can lead to that internal clock being out of sync and in turn have some really negative effects on your body and mood.
Jet Lag Symptoms
You know that feeling when you get to a destination and you feel exhausted and out of sorts. You can’t sleep at night or you are irritable? Not really the way you want to start a vacation right? The symptoms of jet lag are broad but here are a few that we have experienced over the years:
Being irritable or emotional or other mood changesDifficulty falling asleepFeeling exhausted during the dayCan’t sleep throught the nightBrain fogUpset stomach or bowel issues
These are just the jet lag symptoms that we have encountered but we have heard of people losing their coordination and even feeling disoriented and not knowing where they are. Disrupting your circadian rhythm, or internal clock can have some nasty side effects. That is why it is important to take steps to reduce jet lag symptoms, even before you get on the plane
How to Get Over Jet Lag Before You Leave
One of the best ways to prevent jet lag is to adjust your habits before you even get on the plane. When we were crossing multiple time zones on a trip, we found that doing this really helped us minimize the effects of jet lag when we were at the destination.
Shift your Internal Clock Before you Travel
Almost everything you read addresses how you can get over jet lag when you land, but our advice is to start before you even leave. Now, this may sound impossible, or inconvenient but it really has worked for us.
You can try this manually a few days before you leave and set up your own schedule of when you should fall asleep when you should nap etc. but we found that using the Timeshifter App made things much easier. It tells you when to nap, when to take melatonin, when not to consume caffeine, and even when to get bright light exposure (or not) depending on where we are flying.
This really helped get our bodies ready for when we landed at our destination. It also gives you tips and suggestions for when you land as well.
How to Minimize Jet Lag on the plane
Hopefully, you have taken our advice on getting prepared before changing time zones, but if you didn’t there are still things you can do on the plane to help you reduce those jet lag symptoms.
Drink Plenty of Water
Staying properly hydrated is probably one of the easiest things you can do on the flight to help you reduce the effects of jet lag on the ground. Dehydration makes it more difficult for the body to adjust to the new circadian rhythm and we don’t want that.
We recommend packing a refillable water bottle in your carry-on and filling it before you get on the flight. That way you don’t have to wait for them to come around with water and you can hydrate properly during your flight. Remember, even if you don’t feel thirsty, you need to drink.
We don’t drink alcohol when we fly. When we were new travelers, we jumped at the chance to have a glass of wine on a flight, but we paid for it later. The effects of alcohol are greater at altitude and a person becomes dehydrated quickly when flying.
It may not be the most popular choice, but we recommend avoiding the booze until you hit the resort or hotel. Your body will thank you for it.
Avoid Sleep-Aids if you can
We try to avoid sleeping pills at all costs. We like to have the shift happen naturally. But if you do need to take sleep medicine make sure to use something natural like Melatonin. Other types of sleeping pills can have negative effects on your ability to combat jet lag because it is unnaturally forcing you to sleep.
Get Some Sleep
Sleeping on a plane can be a real hassle. But if your Jet Lag Plan calls for you to get some shut-eye, make sure you do it. It is not easy to fall asleep on a plane but if you have the right travel pillow and sleep mask, it can actually be more comfortable than you think.
If I have to sleep on a flight I make sure to get a window seat, so I am not bothered by people getting up to go to the bathroom, and I tell the flight attendant not to disturb me for meals.
How to Get Over Jet Lag When you Land
If you have done everything we have suggested up to this point to cure jet lag you should be in good shape. But, there are a few things you should do when you land that will make things even easier.
Get some Natural Light Exposure As soon as you can
Natural light plays a huge role in letting your body know when to rest and when not to. That is why it is so important to get out into some natural sunlight after you land. This is true regardless of whether you are flying east or flying west. If you are traveling east it is best to expose yourself to morning light to advance your body clock. If you are traveling west, try and get out in the evening light to delay your body clock.
We make sure to combine exercise and light together to help sync ourselves to the current time zone.
Don’t Fall Asleep right Away
I know the temptation to hit the hay and fall asleep is what your body wants to do, but it is best to actually stay awake until bedtime arrives in your local time zone. This is usually the hardest thing to do as your body wants to go to sleep at its normal bedtime. We suggest getting out and taking a walking tour or going for a hike. Any type of exercise will help you stay awake until the appropriate time.
Use Food to Trick Your Body
Food is also the body’s trigger when it comes to adjusting to different time zones. We tend to associate certain meals with certain times of the day. So work this to your advantage when you get to a destination. For example, if we are on a night flight to Europe, we try to eat breakfast as soon as we land, even if we are not hungry.
This is another way to trick your body into thinking that it is breakfast time and it should be on that schedule. It may be the middle of the night at home but the faster you get your body on the time zone you are in the better off you will be.
Get a Good Nights Sleep
This can be more difficult than it sounds, especially if you have crossed a number of time zones. But if you have taken our advice and followed these jet lag tips it will be much easier. If you find you are having difficulty sleeping, now is the time to use your sleep aid Melatonin Supplements. We like to take it just before bed as it helps our body’s circadian rhythm adjust naturally.
Try to keep the blinds closed and the lights dim at least an hour before you go to bed and stay off your computer or cell phone if you can. Blue light can really reak havoc with your sleep patterns.
Jet lag is something that every traveler will have to deal with at some time in their life. Changing time zones and resetting your body’s internal clock may not be simple but by following these tips we are sure that you will feel more energized and awake on your next vacation.
What has worked for you? Leave your best cure and give us some more advice.