Frequent travelers know how daunting it can be to navigate across time zones and experience jet lag, along with its inconvenient symptoms. From the days leading up to your flight to the time you arrive at your final destination, there are ways to combat its effects.
Before Your Flight:
- Reschedule your bedtime: Experienced road warriors have found that advancing or delaying your body clock gradually before a scheduled trip can make the adjustment faster and easier. Rescheduling your bedtime to match the sleep schedule of your destination can ease some future pain. If traveling east, plan to be in bed earlier, while travelers planning to head west should go to bed later. Warning: jet lag is known to be worse when traveling east.
- Take care beforehand: Do not stay up late on the nights leading up to your flight. Healthy eating and proper exercise is also suggested, as this will keep your body’s immune system healthy and strong.
- Pack for comfort: Take items that will make you comfortable and promote sleep if you need it. Pillows, blankets and sleeping masks will make you rest better. Wearing noise-cancelling while listening to good music is recommended for filtering out noise. This can help you have less fatigue by being focused in your own thoughts and tuning out your surroundings.
During Your Flight:
- Adjust your clock: It’s best to not remind your brain of the time at home. Before arriving in your new time zone, pretend like you are already there. Prepare for the time change by adjusting the clock on all your devices to match your destination. This helps your brain and body sync and adhere to your new schedule.
- Regulate sleeping pattern: In addition to changing the time on your clock, the way you sleep can determine how severe your jet lag may be. Attempt to stay awake or sleep in accordance to the time zone you will arrive in. If you need sleep, take over-the-counter melatonin, which is the chemical your brain releases to make one sleepy. One study found that a 5mg dose of melatonin helped participants regulate their sleep-wake cycle in new time zones faster.
- Monitor consumption: Not only is your sleep cycle readjusting, so is your digestive system. Eat in accordance with your new time zone while on the plane. Experienced road warriors suggest avoiding having heavy meals or binging on snacks.
At Your Final Destination:
- Expose yourself to sunlight: If it’s daytime at your destination, stay away from your bed. Sleeping too much during the day will make it difficult for your body to adjust. Light exposure is key for triggering the hormonal cycle that will make you sleepy when it’s dark. Enjoy the sunshine since staying indoors has shown to worsen jet lag. If you’re too exhausted and must take a nap, try limiting it to 30 minutes.
- Drink water: Jet lag symptoms include headaches, muscle pain and nausea, but these symptoms may also be a sign of dehydration during the flight. Drink plenty of water and stay hydrated as this will help you feel alert and more focused.
- Give yourself time: Don’t expect your body to adjust right away. Have some patience as research has shown that the human body can only adjust up to two time zones per day. It takes time and frustration doesn’t make it any better. As difficult as it may be, anticipating jet lag and preparing yourself before the inevitable symptoms kick in is the best solution.