When we turn back to international travel, we know there will be longer lines and more logs. We will have to arrive at the airport earlier and spend more time getting to our destination. All of these things add to the travel day and the last thing you want to deal with is more jet lag.
When flying to a new time zone the biorhythmic confusion known as jet lag is inevitable, but knowing how to minimize symptoms can make the first day at your destination much more enjoyable.
Over the years crossing time zones, we’ve learned some great ways to overcome jet lag, and these really work. Also read: What to Expect When Traveling During COVID-19
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Jet lag tips
Jet lag can also occur on trips that only last a few hours. Everything is based on your circadian rhythm, also known as your “body clock”. If your sleeping and waking behavior is disturbed, this can cause the internal clock to be out of sync and in turn have a negative effect on your body and your mood.
Jet lag symptoms
You know this feeling when you arrive at a destination and feel exhausted and embarrassed. Can’t sleep at night or are you irritable? Not really how you’d like to start your vacation, is it? The symptoms of jet lag are wide-ranging, but here are some that we have experienced over the years:
- Irritability or emotional or other mood swings
- Difficulty falling asleep
- Feeling exhausted during the day
- Can’t sleep through the night
- Brain fog
- Stomach or intestinal problems
These are just the jet lag symptoms we’ve encountered, but we’ve heard of people lose their coordination and even feel disoriented and not know where they are. A disruption in your circadian rhythm or internal clock can have some unpleasant side effects. For this reason, it is important to take steps to reduce the symptoms of jet lag before boarding the aircraft
Here’s how to overcome jet lag before you go
One of the best ways to prevent jet lag is to change your habits before you even get on the plane. When we crossed multiple time zones on a trip, we found that this really helped us to minimize the effects of jetlag at the destination.
Move your internal clock before you travel
Almost everything you read is about how to overcome jet lag on landing, but we recommend that you start before you even leave. This may sound impossible or inconvenient now, but it really worked for us.
You can try this manually a few days before your departure and make your own schedule of when to fall asleep, when to take a nap, etc. But we’ve found that using the Timeshifter app makes things a lot easier. It tells you when to nap, when to take melatonin, when not to consume caffeine, and even when to (or not) expose to bright light, depending on where we are flying.
This really helped prepare our bodies for landing at our destination. It also gives you tips and suggestions for landing.
How to minimize jet lag on an airplane
Hopefully you’ve followed our advice on preparing to change your time zone, but if you haven’t, there are still some things you can do on the plane to reduce these symptoms of jet lag.
Drink plenty of water
Staying hydrated is probably one of the easiest things you can do in-flight to reduce the effects of jet lag on the ground. Dehydration makes it difficult for the body to adapt to the new circadian rhythm, and we don’t want that.
We recommend that you pack a refillable water bottle in your hand luggage and fill it up before your flight. That way, you don’t have to wait for them to come over with water and you can hydrate properly during your flight. Remember, even when you are not thirsty, you must drink.
We don’t drink alcohol when we fly. As new travelers, we took the opportunity to have a glass of wine on a flight but paid for it later. The effects of alcohol are stronger at altitude, and a person becomes dehydrated quickly when flying.
It might not be the most popular choice, but we recommend avoiding the alcohol until you reach the resort or hotel. Your body will thank you.
Avoid sleeping pills if you can
We try to avoid sleeping pills at all costs. We want the shift to happen naturally. However, if you do need to take sleeping pills, use something natural like melatonin. Other types of sleeping pills can adversely affect your ability to fight jet lag by unnaturally forcing you to sleep.
Get some sleep
Sleeping on a plane can be a real challenge. But if your jet lag plan prompts you to close your eyes, make sure you do. Falling asleep on a plane is not easy, but with the right travel pillow and sleeping mask it can actually be more comfortable than you think.
When I have to sleep on a flight, I make sure to get a window seat so I don’t get disturbed when people get up to go to the bathroom, and I tell the flight attendant not to disturb me while I am eating.
How to overcome jet lag on landing
If you’ve done everything we’ve suggested up to this point to cure jet lag, you should be in good shape. However, there are a few things you should do upon landing to make things even easier.
Get natural light asap
Natural light plays a huge role in telling your body when to rest and when not to rest. This is why it is so important to get out into natural sunlight after landing. This applies regardless of whether you are flying east or west. When traveling east, it is best to expose yourself to the morning light to help keep your internal clock going. When traveling west, try to get off in the evening light to slow down your internal clock.
We make sure that we combine movement and light to synchronize with the current time zone.
Don’t fall asleep right away
I know the temptation to hit the hay and fall asleep is what your body wants to do, but it’s best to actually stay awake until bedtime is in your local time zone. This is usually the hardest part as your body wants to go to sleep at normal bedtime. We recommend you go for a walk or a hike. Any type of exercise will help you stay awake until the right time.
Use food to trick your body
Food is also the body’s trigger when it comes to adapting to different time zones. We tend to associate certain meals with certain times of the day. So work this to your advantage when you get to a destination. For example, if we take a night flight to Europe, we try to have breakfast right after landing, even if we are not hungry.
This is another way to get your body to think that it is breakfast time and it should be on this schedule. It may be home in the middle of the night, but the faster you get your body into the time zone you are in, the better you will be.
This can be harder than it sounds, especially if you’ve crossed multiple time zones. But if you’ve followed our advice and followed these jet lag tips, things will get a lot easier. If you are having trouble sleeping, now is the time to start using your sleep aid melatonin supplements. We like to take it just before bed as it helps our bodies adapt naturally.
Try to close the blinds and dim the lights at least an hour before bed, and keep your computer or cell phone away if you can. Blue light can really mess up your sleep schedule.
Jet lag is something that every traveler has to deal with at some point in their life. Changing time zones and setting your body’s internal clock back may not be easy, but following these tips will make you feel more confident and more alert on your next vacation.
What worked for you Leave your best regimen and give us more advice.
Get yourself ready to travel with these tips!