How to Beat Jet-Lag
Got a long trip coming up and HATE flying? Well, me too. I wasn’t always this way, but once I got a little older and started practically dying from jet-lag, flying became a love-hate relationship. Thankfully, (after countless overseas flights) I can confidently say these tactics always work, and I get up the next day feeling completely adjusted!
First let’s talk about why jet-lag happens. Jet-lag is a phenomenon that occurs because of our internal clock called our Circadian Rhythm. This is the body function that tells us when it’s time to sleep and wake-up. As you could imagine, flying across multiple time zones will really alter this pattern, which then causes jet-lag and our body’s confusion of when to be alert.
Some of this advice will change based on each person, but overall if you suffer from extreme jet-lag this is give you tips on how to conquer it on your next trip.
1. Getting enough sleep
If you’re one of those people who just CAN’T sleep on planes, don’t worry I get it, but getting enough sleep mostly refers to before and after your flight. Don’t stay up late packing the night before because you avoided it all week. Don’t go out with your friends and get home at 2 am (do that after your trip). Traveling is exhausting, so making sure you have enough sleep before you get on the plane can keep your immune system stronger and ensure you stay healthy during your travels.
2. Align yourself with your new time-zone
Look up what time it will be when you land in your destination. This will help you plan when you need to awake or asleep on the plane. For example, if you’re flying from Los Angeles to Sydney Australia, you take off at night and land early in the morning two days ahead. The flight is about 15 hours long, so when you work it out, stay up as long as possible (even though its bed time in the US) because when you land you want to be waking up just like the people in Sydney. If you can’t sleep on planes like me, watch movies for as long as possible (I usually watch for about 8 hours) then switch to reading. Blue light from phones or TV’s can trick your brain into thinking that it is day time. This is why when you use your phone before bed for too long you have trouble sleeping. If you switch to reading for about an hour or two and are able to doze off for even just a little amount of time it will do you so much good rather than sleeping instantly and watching movies during the second half of the flight. So, regardless of where you are going, plan out what time you are going to schedule daily patterns and stick to it.
3. Dress warmly and bring snacks
Nothing is worse than being on a plane and not being able to sleep because you think you’re going to get frostbite. Planes are always freezing when they fly for long distances because many people leave their air vents open the whole time, so bring a jacket and thick socks. I wrote more about this topic in another article on this website about dealing with long-haul flights, so more advice can be found here: https://www.travelgloballivelocal.com/post/dealing-with-long-haul-flights
However, with regards to jet-lag these things can be influential as well. It is much easier to fall asleep when you are cozy and warm. Airlines usually provide you with a blanket and small pillow but these are very thin, so bring something from home if it will help you be more comfortable. Snacks are essential for preventing jet-lag as well. Meals are usually served one or two hours into the flight then again closer to landing. If you’re like me and snack about every 4 hours, then definitely do not forget to bring them. Being hungry can prevent sleep, so bring snacks that will fill you up long term. I typically buy Clif Bars or trail mix.
4. Drink water!
Drink as much water as you possibly can. I usually bring a 32 oz water bottle and fill it up at the airport right before boarding begins. If you are going on a trans-Pacific flight I would recommend filling up your water bottle and buying another 32 oz one. You can call the flight attendants during the flight to bring by more water, but this gets frustrating because you keep having to ask. Hydration is probably the most important part about all of this because it can help you fight off illnesses that may be being spread on the plane, and it helps your body recuperate and function better once you land.
5. Stay up the first day in the destination
One thing that I see people doing a lot when they travel is that they nap when they get to their destination. DO NOT DO THIS. I know it’s hard, and I’ll admit I’ve done it before too. However, the longer you can stay up the first day, the better night sleep you will get, and the better you’ll feel the next day. Many people recommend to not drink coffee while suffering from jet lag, but if that’s something you regularly drink I think it’s totally fine to drink it up until about noon. I have never been negatively affected by drinking coffee once I land unless it’s in the afternoon (which is something I can’t do at home either). Basically, stay awake and go through your normal routine at home to help yourself adjust.
6. Explore outdoors
This of course depends on your destination and time of year. If you’re somewhere where being active outdoors is feasible then do it. Even if that means sitting out on the beach on a chair, the sun exposure will help you immensely. I’ve gotten into the routine of walking as much as possible outside, and even swimming if I’m near a body of water. The fresh air and sunlight make a huge difference in your body’s ability to adjust because circadian rhythms strongly rely on light and nature to form patterns. Exploring your new destination is also incredibly beneficial to do on the first day because it familiarizes your mind with the area which is the best thing to do when entering a new area.
7. Sleeping through the first night
Avoid drinking this first night because it may interrupt your ability to sleep through the whole night, and because alcohol weakens the immune system it may increase your chances of getting sick. After walking as much as possible and hopefully getting some sun exposure, you should be tired enough to sleep. Drink a glass or two of water before you go to sleep (more if you feel dehydrated). Do your typical nightly routine that you do at home, and if you still don’t feel ready for bed take a melatonin tablet. I’ve found that I like to take two Nyquil tablets because it fights off any symptoms of a cold before they really kick in, AND it promptly knocks me out.
Hopefully these tips help some of you, and if you have any other questions feel free to contact us. Best of luck on your next trip!