If you’ve traveled abroad before, you’ve surely dealt with the annoying, energy-sucking experience of jet-lag. I made the mistake of setting activities for the early morning the day after arriving in a new country… not the smartest idea in retrospect! Hopefully, you can learn from my mistakes, and practice these hacks to fight (and maybe even avoid!) jet lag!
- Get on your destination’s time zone a few days ahead.
This may not always be possible – but if you can swing it, start sleeping during the nighttime hours of your destination. This will help you to get on the new schedule more quickly and easily. While this may be difficult for short breaks throughout the year, this is definitely something you can try before your big summer trip!
- Eat during your destination’s mealtimes.
This is easier to do if you’re already on the destination’s sleep schedule, but even if you can’t adjust your sleeping schedules days before your flight, you can limit your meals the day of the flight. Say you’re heading to Dublin, Ireland from Los Angeles, California. There’s an 8-hour difference. If you usually eat breakfast at 7am, eat at least a snack (if not actual breakfast food!) at 11pm, if you can. It might feel weird for a bit, but eating on that schedule will quickly get your body accustomed to the new schedule.
- Keep the window closed during your destination’s nighttime.
This one’s particularly tough for me, because I’m always so curious, excited and fascinated with everything that’s going on once I’m on my way! But this is crucial. The light from the sun will keep you awake. As soon as you get on the plane (if not sooner!), set your phone/watch to your destination’s time, or at least add it to your city times (if you have multiple locations as an option). Force yourself to stay awake and looking at light during your destination’s daytime, and force yourself to close the window during your destination’s night (as tempting as the views may be!).
- Wear an eye-mask.
I will admit that I’m not a big fan of eye-masks, however they’re just great to have in general – whether you fly a lot, stay in hostels, or visit a place with extended light hours (i.e. summer in Alaska!). This is another situation where they come in handy. As hard as it may be, force yourself to wear the eye-mask and sleep during your destination’s nighttime (do I sound like a broken record yet?).
- Try to avoid the bright side of the plane.This takes a bit more planning. When you’re booking your flight, think about which side the sun will be on. If possible, reserve your seat on the other side of the plane. You may still get a bit of light coming through from fellow passengers opening their windows across the aisle, but every little bit helps!
- When you need to force yourself to sleep, use melatonin.
What is melatonin, anyway? Melatonin actually occurs naturally within our bodies. It’s a secreted hormone that regulates several cycles, including sleep. You can buy it over the counter, usually in doses between 1-10mg. Of course, as is the case with any supplement or medication, it is best to check with your medical provider before using it. Many swear that by taking melatonin 30 minutes to an hour before they want to fall asleep, they’re able to get to sleep more quickly, and get deeper sleep.Do note that there are varied side-effects. Other travelers have mentioned experiencing diarrhea, hallucinations, or sleep to deep to wake up easily, causing more grogginess. It’s recommended to try it at home a few times before using it during a trip, and as earlier states, seek the opinion of your primary care provider first (especially if you’re taking other medications or supplements).
- This might be the most fun option – have a glass of wine!
Note that alcohol does dehydrate you, which can lead to more grogginess if you don’t stay hydrated. However, wine has a natural relaxing effect, and many feel sleepy right after indulging in a glass of wine. Red wine seems to be particularly effective, from my personal experience!
- Stay hydrated!
This is something that I struggle with as a teacher. Since I teach elementary, I often have to hold it, as I can’t just walk out on my class whenever I need to go! So, I struggle between staying hydrated and limiting my fluids, and thus, bathroom breaks. Though it might be annoying, it really is advisable that you drink lots of water on your flight! Airplanes are low-oxygen, low-humidity environments. This dries you out more quickly, meaning you become dehydrated more quickly. On long-haul flights (10-20 hours), you can lose as much as 4-8% of your total bodily water (between 1.5-4 liters, or .4-1 gallons)!
- Stay faithful to your workout routine!
If you usually workout in the morning at home, try to workout at the same time on your new schedule, as soon as you get to your destination. Though you may feel more tired upon arrival, consistent exercise leads to better sleep. Better sleep means that you’ll become accustomed to your new schedule sooner!
- Split up your trip, if possible!
Many of you might already know about the 23-hour layover trick (if not, stay tuned to learn more about that in another post!). While that’s a great way to maximize your vacations (and points, if you have memberships!), it’s also a great opportunity to get adjusted to your final destination’s schedule over time. We’ll use our Dublin, Ireland example again. Many budget airlines offer stopovers in Reykjavik, Iceland.
Do you have any tricks that help with jet lag? If so, please share them in the comments below!