With long distance travel comes the insomnia, dizziness, and just out-of-it feeling we all know as jet lag. Luckily, just because you've been on a plane for several hours doesn't mean you have to lose a day. These tips will help you before, during and after your trip to beat back jet lag as quickly as possible.
Prepare Yourself For Success
Take the time and effort to prepare your body for the transition. The more planning you put in, the easier it will be for you to adjust at your destination. Stay as healthy as possible prior to your trip. Try to avoid getting sick. If you can, book an afternoon or overnight flight, Fodor's explains why:
You'll have dinner at a normal time and be much more likely to sleep than on an afternoon flight. Depending on the length of the flight and the number of time zones you cross, you'll arrive at your destination in the morning or afternoon. This is the best way to replicate your normal schedule, and it will be easier for you to reset your clock.
If you have the flexibility, adjust your sleep schedule to slowly move it towards that of your destination. Try adjusting your sleep schedule by one hour each day. If you're going west, wake up and go to bed one hour later for a few days before your trip. If you're going east, wake up and go to bed an hour later.
In addition, try a fasting diet to reset your internal clock around food availability. You can either try for a strategy that involves feasting and fasting over a number of days or one 16-hour stretch.
The feasting and fasting method, known as the Argonne Anti-Jet-Lag Diet, has you alternate between protein and carb heavy meals (feast days) and light meals like broth or toast (fast days). The stretch method, on the other hand, has you focus your fasting efforts into one 12-16 hour period just before you arrive at your destination. Then, when you break the fast with breakfast, your body gets the signal that this new time is the start of your day. Whichever you choose, try to make your meals healthy so you don't feel too sluggish during travel.
Stick To Your Plan
When you first arrive, try to get on the local time schedule ASAP. Ways to do this include:
- Don't go to sleep upon arrival (unless it's bedtime at your destination). I've experienced this work myself, as have many others. HostelWorld has some testimonials from users who agree that the push through to bedtime is worth it.
- Eat the right meals at the right time. Don't grab a heavy meal for breakfast because your body is telling you it's dinner time; you'll just end up sleepy. A sidenote: as Conde Nast Traveller points out, you may want to have snacks handy for late-night hunger pains, especially if you're travelling with kids.
- Stay away from alcohol and caffeine. Even though holidays are a time to indulge, try to avoid consuming alcohol or caffeine until you're adjusted since both of these tend to mess with sleep quality.
- Make time in your sightseeing schedule to take it easy the first day or two, especially in the mornings or late in the day when you'll be tired from activities.
Manage your light intake as well. Seek out bright light if you're trying to wake up, or avoid it if you're trying to wind down for the night. This way, you'll reset your internal clock as quickly as possible. Here are a few steps you can take to help:
- Use British Airways' Jet Lag Advisor to find out what hours you should seek and avoid light at the start of your trip.
- Bring ear plugs and an eye mask to block out external light and sounds which could make it difficult to fall and stay asleep.
- Follow a bedtime routine to relax yourself and signal to your brain that it's time to go to sleep. If you don't have one, try simply laying down, closing your eyes, and focusing on your breathing.
By combining all these steps, you'll set yourself up to transition smoothly to your destination's time zone and your ideal schedule while there.
Recover Quickly When You Return Home
You may be tempted to use every minute of your holiday time on your trip, but you should give yourself at least one day to recover at home. This will help you get back to your normal routine and hit the ground running.
Follow many of the same steps in the preparation section above to get yourself reoriented to your normal day-to-day routine. Eat light, healthy meals that will give you energy, and avoid alcohol and caffeine to get the best quality sleep you can — at least right after you get back. Again, find a bedtime routine to help you relax and wind down each night.
Jet lag is something that almost every traveller has to deal with. Luckily, it doesn't have to make you miserable. With a little preparation, you can create a plan to overcome it. Have your own tricks to fight jet lag? Let us know what they are in the comments below.