There are two tiny words that haunt the dreams of travelers. Six small letters that can damper the mood of even the most enthusiastic trip planners. Those dreaded two words: jet lag. If you’re like me, you want to plan out every detail from the moment you disembark. You’ve got that dream trip coming up- and you couldn’t be more excited. But the time difference is extreme, and you’re worried that jet lag will wreak havoc on your sleep schedule and, let’s face it, your cheery mood. This can be a tough aspect of travel, but there are some things you can do to minimize its effects!
I’ve taken flights as long as 16 hours and landed on the opposite side of the globe. Believe me, I know how drastic time changes can be. But what really works? Walking around barefoot and scrunching your toes on the carpet? I’m looking at you, John McClane. Or how about catching some zzzs as soon as you enter your hotel room? This may hurt more than help. So… what can we do?
Here are my top 5 tips to combat jet lag:
1. Drink a LOT of water
Airplanes tend to be extremely dry and can dehydrate you fairly quickly. This means you’ll feel groggy and under the weather. It’s important to drink a lot of water before, during, and after a flight to make sure you stay healthy! Buy a large water bottle in the airport after you go through security, or bring an empty bottle with you to fill up at your gate. Then don’t forget to drink plenty throughout your flight (p.s. this is why I ALWAYS request an aisle seat! Hassle-free bathroom breaks). Take every offer from a passing flight attendant for a cup of water or juice. If you want an extra boost, add Airborne to your water to ensure you get plenty of vitamins to protect your immune system. Avoid alcohol and caffeine, both of which can dehydrate you and affect your adjustment time.
2. Reset your clock ahead of time
Keep in mind what time it is in your final destination, and the day before, set your clock to that time so that you can start getting used to the difference. Part of jet lag is a mental component- you need to convince your body clock to adjust itself to a new time zone, so looking at a clock and starting to think that that is the true time will help! You can even adjust your sleep schedule slowly a few days in advance.
3. Plan your meals and caffeine around the NEW time zone
This is especially important for my fellow coffee drinkers! One of the first ways to hinder your jet lag adjustment is to drink coffee at what in your final destination will be 2AM – or worse, later at night. If you are traveling west (and therefore gaining time) try to drink coffee later in the day so you can stay up later. If you are traveling east, refrain from drinking coffee (if you can!) unless it would still be morning time in your final destination. For those who don’t drink coffee, this is still helpful to keep in mind when eating breakfast, lunch, and dinner. Meals can help reset your body clock when eaten at the proper time!
4. Schedule layovers to help you adjust
Sometimes you will need to have a layover for your flight, but this can be planned right in order to help you adjust gradually. If traveling from the east coast of the US to Hawaii, for example, you can schedule a day layover in California to help your body adjust more slowly. I did this for my trip to Maui- we spent a day in San Francisco, saw the sites, stayed the night, and then flew out to Kahului early the next morning. I understand this may not always be possible based on flight availability and your available travel days, but keep it in mind if the opportunity arises!
5. Stick to a reasonable schedule on your first day
This can be tricky, but it is key to adjusting early in your trip rather than facing jet lag for multiple days or even weeks (yes weeks!). If you are traveling west, make an effort to stay up to a reasonable hour; I would suggest around 10pm local time. If you fall asleep at 5pm, it will only make it harder to adjust to the new time zone. Yes you’ll be up for the sunrise probably every day, but you’ll find yourself crashing early in the day. If you’re traveling east, make an effort to get up in the morning by 9am. Set your alarm and then GET UP! Getting up early can help you adjust your body clock, and then you will get tired at night rather than feeling restless all night long.
Note: Sometimes, no matter how much you prepare, jet lag will rear it’s ugly head anyways. When I went to Singapore, the time difference was 13 HOURS, and that was preceded by 40 total hours of travel to get to the final destination. I’m not gonna lie, that was a tough transition, and no matter how much water I drank or planning I did, I just couldn’t avoid the fact that my body was going to be thrown off. This definitely happens with international travel- so don’t beat yourself up too bad over it. If you need that extra sleep, or you find yourself wide awake in the middle of the night, make the most of the situation and don’t give yourself too hard of a time. No matter how much you will your body to go to sleep, sometimes it just won’t work. So keep a positive attitude, and know that eventually your body will adjust. Do what you can with the energy and time you have- you will still have a great trip!
Hopefully this helps with your next trip in which you face the possibility of jet lag! What other tips and tricks have you guys heard? Comment them below, I’d love to learn more!