Jet lag “a condition that is characterized by various psychological and physiological effects (as fatigue and irritability), occurs following long flight through several time zones, and probably results from disruption of circadian rhythms in the human body,” Merriam Webster dictionary
I hate jet lag. It’s one of the few things I don’t like about traveling. BUT it’s a necessary evil if you want to go anywhere in the world. Regardless of all the “miracle” promises there is no cure or fix for preventing jet lag. When you screw with your body’s time clock, it takes time to adapt to the new situation.
I’m a bitch when jet lagged. I do my best, but I still get snappy, forget things, don’t function well and become clumsy. Yep, I’m a “graceful” bitch when in jet lag mode! David doesn’t do so well either. He gets irritable, tired and snippy.
Everyone experiences jet lag differently, but some of the leading signs and side effects include:
- inability to think
- memory loss
- weight gain (yes, jet lag can actually make you gain weight)
- and lack of concentration.
If you’re interested in a more in-depth article about the science behind jet lag, check out Belle Beth Cooper’s article “The truth about jet lag and how to overcome it.” I found Belle’s article while looking for help for dealing with my nasty jet lag issues.
After a few years of travel and trying A LOT of tips for dealing with jet lag, David and I have narrowed down to these eight tips as being the most helpful for us. Hopefully, they’ll help you as well.
1. Change Your Time Zone Before You Go
About a week before you leave, start getting up and going to bed an hour earlier or later depending on whether you’ll be traveling east or west. Set all your clocks an hour ahead or back. Unless you’re only going one or two zones, adjusting to a full amount of hours forward or behind isn’t always practical. BUT you can still make a difference by adapting to an hour or two ahead or behind.
2. Increase or Decrease Your Sunlight Exposure
Increase or decrease the amount of sunlight you get per day based on the time zone you’ll be visiting. Sunlight is the most significant key to resetting your internal clock, so getting on the right cycle does help. Get outside when it’s daylight in your new time zone and pull the shades and avoid sunlight for nighttimes.
3. Drink Lots of Water
Dehydration helps no one. If you want to feel right, you have to drink plenty of water. Personally, I hate drinking lots of water on the plane because I hate using the airplane bathroom. BUT I do feel sooooo much better when I drink more water.
4. Avoid Alcohol
A hard one for us because we like to enjoy a glass of wine while we’re waiting for our flight. But alcohol causes dehydration, and we already know from the tip above that dehydration is not suitable for jet lag. In my experience, I’m more likely to experience a hangover when drinking while traveling.
5. Change Your Meals to Your New Time Zone
Eating at the “normal” meal times will help your body adjust to the new schedule easier. Yes, your co-workers, friends, and family will think you’ve gone crazy for eating dinner at 9:30 AM, but it’s worth it. It’s beneficial for US citizens who tend to eat dinner early compared to many countries in Europe and South America who don’t even think of eating dinner until after 8 pm.
6. Travel Overnight
Sleeping on a long plane, train or bus ride can help you get some rest before arriving at your destination. Personally, I’m horrible at sleeping on any transportation. I’m always excited to get there, so I use Tylenol PM to help me sleep. Experts recommend not using sleep aids when traveling, but this is what works for me. You’ll have to find your happy medium.
7. Get Out In Your New Environment Upon Arrival
David and I do a little unpacking and settling in upon arrival, then head out for a bit of exploring. We pick somewhere relatively close, walk to get the blood pumping and find a nice bite to eat. The social experience and the exercise help us shake off travel effects and settle into the local rhythm. Don’t forget to check out our article How to Keep Your Tummy Happy While Traveling to help avoid tummy issues.
8. Give Yourself Time to Adapt
Time. Give yourself time. The only real cure for jet lag is your body adjusting to the new schedule and place. Science suggests that it takes one day for every time zone you cross to change. Following the above tips will help a lot, but time is what your body just needs to adjust fully. So be gentle, meditate or do yoga and take it easy.
Another common tip is to exercise while traveling which I didn’t include. Mainly because it’s almost impossible to get any decent exercise on a plane, train or bus. Planes are so overbooked these days, plus the seat belt signs stay on so much. Even getting up and down the aisle for a restroom run is like competing in American Ninja Warrior.
When I am up, I get in as many stretches and paces as possible until the attendant gives me the “LOOK.” If you travel, you know what I’m talking about. The “look” that says “sit your ass down.” But for those who want to give exercise a try, more power to you. It’s always worth a shot. And it is right for you.
Good luck with your time travel and feel free to add your tips for dealing with jet lag in the comments. We’re always looking for more ways to help beat jet lag and might even share your suggestions in a future post.
- 1 1. Change Your Time Zone Before You Go