In a word, jet lag is a pain. It is a range of symptoms experienced while the body adapts to a new time zone following a flight2, 5. It disturbs your sleep cycle making you feel drowsy and lethargic during the day and/or unable to sleep at night. At other times it can cause indigestion and bowel problems2, 5.The body is naturally fine-tuned to handle a list of regular activities every 24 hours but when you travel at high speed to a distant time zone, that program is thrown out of whack and it can take several days for your body clock to adjust3, 1. Most people find that eastbound travel results in more severe jet lag.
Below are 15 tips that can help reduce jet lag
The first four involve things you can do before you leave. The next six are tips for travel day. And the last five apply when you have arrived.
- Pack at least 24 hours before departure time and put everything you need in your travel bags except for what you need the day/night before you leave. And then, get a good night’s sleep. Beginning your journey well-rested and as stress-free as possible.
- You can try adjusting your internal clock several days before starting your trip4, 5, especially if you normally have a rigid schedule that you follow daily (in which case you’re more susceptible to jet lag). Try getting to bed more towards normal bedtime in your destination time zone.
- Try to arrive in daylight hours at your destination so that you are prompted to stay awake and that way you start the adjusting as soon as you arrive.
- The day before you start your journey, cut down on the caffeine 6. Caffeine is the primary cause of insomnia and may also reduce your sleep quality. While jumping time zones disrupts your natural sleep cycle, caffeine can accelerate the disruption making it hard for you to adjust upon landing. Also, avoid coffee, cola and energy drinks.
- Adjust your watch to the time of your destination 4, 5, 6, 8. This can help in psychologically coordinating with the new time zone.
- Planes are dehydrating so take steps to stay hydrated 5, 6, 8,. For every hour you spend on the flight drink at least eight ounces of water. If you wear lenses, clean them before your trip, continue using your eye drops in the air, and remove your specs when sleeping. Apply lip balm and a hand moisturizer. And again, avoid the caffeine (which, in sufficient quantities can also dehydrate you).
- While in-flight, please avoid the alcohol 6, 8. Altitude changes sharpen the effects of alcohol so while you might think that alcohol is relaxing you (and, hey, on some flights it’s free right?) it may exacerbate your jet lag. Every bottle or glass you down up there equals two or three on the ground.
- On the plane, get up and move around regularly 8. There are lots of seated exercises you can also do to keep your body limber.
- Sleeping on the plane is good, especially if you are traveling west to east 5, 8.
- Consider investing in soundproof headsets that will help you sleep better, allowing your internal clock to start the sync process.
- After arrival spend as much time as you can in the sun (with sunblock as needed, of course) to help your body reset its internal clock 5, 7, 8.
- Exercise often. Working out also helps you make endorphins that help mitigate exhaustion 6, 8.
- Eat three meals at normal times for the new time zone. Don’t be rigid and stick to your previous timeline 1, 5, 8. That will only make the “hangover” worse.
- Similarly, try to carry on your other regular activities in sync with the new time zone. If you really feel the need, make up any sleep shortfalls with a brief snooze.
- If you’re traveling on business, consider arriving a day before you need to start taking care of business5.
When traveling across different time zones, the unfortunate fact is it takes your body time to adjust. Hopefully, the tips mentioned above will help reduce the severity of your jet lag symptoms.