How long have you spent dreaming about your next international adventure? You dream of touring some of the most amazing sights the world has to offer, eating delectable local cuisines, and making memories that will last a lifetime. But when you step off the plane, ready for adventure and wonder, that dream may come to a screeching halt – now that you’re here, all you want to do is go to bed.
Jet lag can make the first few days of an international trip miserable. Luckily, you don’t have to spend your trip yawning and trying to peel your eyes open to see the beautiful landscapes before you. Read on to get some of the best tips for beating jet lag on your next trip.
What Is Jet Lag?
Most of us have experienced the phenomenon of jet lag, but we may not know what exactly it is. Jet lag is a disruption of your sleep schedule caused by traveling long distances in a relatively short period of time.
Your body gets used to one sleep schedule, and then you drop it into a whole new time zone where your circadian rhythms have no meaning.
Jet lag can be extremely physically difficult; not only are you subjecting your body to the hardships of flying, but you’re also asking it to stay awake for hours or even days at a time. Your body is governed by an internal clock that tells you when to go to sleep and wake up. But when you fly across the world, all the cues your body uses to set this internal clock are flipped around.
1. Schedule Your Flights Carefully
Some of the best things you can do to avoid jet lag happen long before you board the plane. When you first begin planning your trip, pay attention to the times on your flights. If possible, try to arrange to arrive at your destination in the early evening local time.
Even if you have to take a red-eye flight out of your home airport, arriving as the day is ending at your destination can make your adjustment much easier. Yes, you’ll be exhausted from a long day of flights, but that’s going to happen no matter what time you travel. And when you arrive on an evening flight, you can go straight to bed when you arrive at your hotel.
2. Get Plenty of Sleep
The night before your flight, you may be tempted to stay up all night to force your body onto its new schedule, especially if you have an early flight. And while none of us like trying to go to sleep at six in the evening, that’s going to be a much better bet than trying to stay awake for two full days. You want to get plenty of sleep ahead of your international flights.
Make it a point to get plenty of sleep for a few nights before your flight. Making sure you’re well-rested before your trip can make your flights more bearable. You don’t want to stack jet lag on top of an existing sleep deficit if you can avoid it.
3. Make the Shift Slowly
While you’re “stocking up” on sleep before your trip, you may want to start slowly shifting your sleep schedule. In general, experts say you need about one day to recover for each hour of time difference. But what if you could start that transition process early so you don’t spend your entire trip jet lagged?
If you’re traveling somewhere that’s several hours later than you, start going to bed a little earlier every night and getting up a little earlier every morning. The closer you can adjust your schedule to your destination time zone, the better off you’ll be when it comes time to lift off. You may need to use eye masks or blackout curtains during this time to keep your circadian rhythms in check.
Another great thing you can do in the days before your trip is to make sure you get plenty of water. Jet lag is very hard on your body, and you want to make sure you have as few compounding issues going into the flight as possible. Dehydration is no joke, and the pressurized air in a plane cabin can just make the problem worse.
Focus on drinking at least six or eight glasses of water every day for the week before you leave. You may also want to consider using a humidifier to make sure your lungs are in good shape before you leave. The healthier you can begin your flight, the better you’ll feel when you land.
5. Stay Sober
It can be very tempting to get a few drinks on board before (or during your flight). If you’re flying first-class, those complimentary cocktails may look especially enticing. But in general, it’s better to stay sober throughout your flight and wait to celebrate until you land.
For one thing, alcohol dehydrates you, and you’ll already be coping with enough of that from the cabin air. But you also don’t want to get to your destination and be dealing with jet lag stacked on top of a hangover. Keep the lid on the bottle and enjoy a drink once you’ve settled in at your destination.
6. Get Your Blood Pumping
Before you get on those long flights, you may want to get your blood pumping a little bit. This is an especially good idea if you plan to sleep on the plane (more on that later). Working out some of that excess energy and stress before you land in a seat for twelve hours can make it easier to get to sleep.
Skip escalators, elevators, and moving sidewalks as you make your way to your gate. Opt instead to take the stairs, and walk quickly as you go. This little bit of exercise can keep you alert through boarding and then help you unwind once you find your seat.
7. Set Your Watch
As soon as you get on the plane, you want to start the process of adjusting your brain to the new time zone. The sooner you can get your brain used to the new schedule, the easier it will be for you to wake up and fall asleep at standard times. One great way you can do this is by setting your watch as soon as you get on the plane.
Turn your watch forward to the local time at your destination as soon as you find your seat on the plane. If you have any electronics (that won’t be shut off during the flight), see if you can adjust their clocks to meet the new time zone, too. Not only will this get you more in that local time mode, but it will also give you something to do while you wait for everyone else to finish boarding.
8. Stay Comfortable
Long flights are never comfortable, no matter which class you wind up flying. You’re cramped, the plane air is dry, you may be fighting motion sickness, and you have to stay in one place for hours and hours on end. This can leave you sore and cramped, on top of being jet-lagged.
Bring along tools to help you stay comfortable during your long flights so you arrive rested and relaxed. Memory foam seat cushions, neck pillows, and other travel accessories can help you feel like you’re riding on a cloud. Easing stress on your body can make it easier to deal with the effects of jet lag.
9. Plan Your Sleep on the Plane
Oftentimes, on long trips, it may seem like a good idea to try to get as much sleep on the plane as possible. But remember, the trick to avoiding jet lag is to put as much effort as possible toward getting your body on the new schedule. If you sleep on the plane, even if you arrive in the evening, you’ll find it hard to go to sleep.
If you’ve got your flights arranged so you’re arriving in the evening, try to stay awake during your flight. This will make it easier to go to sleep when you get to your hotel. But if you arrive in the morning, try to sleep on the plane so you’re refreshed and ready to go when the wheels hit the ground.
10. Stay Awake Until Bedtime
No matter what time you land, if you want to get over jet lag as quickly as possible, it’s crucial you stay up until bedtime. We know, you may just have gotten off of twenty-four hours of travel or more. You’re tired and all you want to do is go get a shower and head to bed.
But if you go to bed as soon as you hit the ground, you’re going to wake up at your body’s usual morning time. This may be the middle of the afternoon or the night in local time. Doing a hard reset when you get there, as unpleasant as it may be, will help you reset onto local time.
11. Stick to a Schedule
While staying up until bedtime on your first night in town will help, it’s not a magic solution. Your body is still going to think it’s several hours earlier or later. And remember, it takes a day to adjust for each hour of time difference you’re dealing with.
Try to stick to a strict sleep schedule throughout your trip to give your body the best chance at adjusting. Set alarms so you wake up at the same time every morning, and try to make it back to the hotel at the same time every night. Avoid naps throughout the day if possible and you’ll find you’re much more alert during your trip.
12. Soak Up the Sun
While you’re on your trip, try to spend as much time in the sun as possible! Not only is this a great way to see the culture around you, but it can also help alleviate some of the symptoms of jet lag.
Remember, your body’s circadian rhythms rely on things like sunlight to determine when you need to wake up and go to sleep. Spending time out in the sun can help signal your body that this is the time to be awake. And when the sun goes down, your body will pick up on the cues that it’s time to go to sleep for the night.
13. Use Helpful Supplements
Although staying in tune with your circadian rhythms can be a powerful way to fight jet lag, you may still need a little help getting through your trip. There are some natural supplements that can help you go to sleep at the right time so you wake up rested and refreshed in the morning. The most popular of these supplements is melatonin, a substance that your body produces naturally when you’re drifting off to sleep.
Taking melatonin on the plane or when you get to the hotel can make it easier for you to get to sleep, even if your body still thinks it’s daytime. However, if you’ve never taken melatonin before, test it out at home before you leave for your trip. Some people find that improper doses of melatonin make them drowsier than just staying awake, so make sure you know what effect it has on you before you leave for your trip.
14. Get Smart Help
In addition to supplements, there are also some apps that can help make your adjustment to your new sleep schedule easier.
These apps can help you slowly adjust your sleep schedule, know when to avoid caffeine, and even expose yourself to bright light. This can help you stay more consistent with your adjustments and keep you from having to stay so attached to your watch.
With apps like Timeshifter and Entrain, you’ll start by entering your flight information. The app will take a look at your departure date and time, as well as your local time zone and your destination time zone. It will then create a customized schedule to minimize jet lag impact as much as possible.
Don’t Let Jet Lag Ruin Your Trip
Traveling internationally can be very exciting, but jet lag can make your first few days miserable.
Start adjusting your sleep schedule a few days before you leave, and try to arrange your flights to arrive in the early evening. And most importantly, don’t give in to the urge to go to bed at noon when you arrive, no matter how long you’ve been awake.
If you’d like to find more tools to make your travels as comfortable as possible, check out the rest of our site at Everlasting Comfort. We have cushions, neck pillows, humidifiers, and more to keep you floating on a cloud. Shop our back pain relief products and start living your most comfortable life today.