An issue when going abroad on long flights and changing multiple time zones stateside (for instance, traveling east from the west coast) is how to get over jet lag that plagues you once you reach your destination. It’s worse the farther away from home you go, but all that lost sleep can take a toll no matter what distance you traveled.
You don’t want to lose any more time at your vacation spot than you have to. Here are some tips on how to get over jet lag and make the most of your time away!
First things first:
How Do You Know That You Have Jet Lag?
Jet lag happens because there is a disruption in the body’s circadian rhythm, meaning your body’s internal clock is off. So, you have difficulty falling asleep, are sleepy during the day, and are awake at night. Also, you may have all the symptoms associated with sleep deprivation: headaches, difficulty concentrating, and related mood changes.
In addition, because your body clock is off, your GI tract may feel the effects, and you may experience constipation, diarrhea, or a change in appetite. I’ve also dealt with nausea.
How to Get Over Jet Lag
There are several steps you can take to minimize jet lag symptoms. If you are crossing more than two time zones, or on a long-haul flight, keep these tips in mind.
Watch The Flight Times
One travel hack is to book flights that land at your destination at night or in the evening local time. That way, you can check into your hotel, take care of your nightly routine, and hit the bed. Hopefully, the time change in this scenario will not be as big of an issue.
An alternative is to book a red-eye flight. If you can sleep anywhere, this is especially doable. It’s also helpful for trips that are maybe only a weekend-long as it saves you a full day. For instance, going from California to the east coast. If you leave on a red-eye Thursday night after a day of work and arrive on Friday morning, you’ve just given yourself a whole extra day to spend at your destination versus flying all day Friday and only having that evening to explore or hangout
Use Sleep Aids
Whether or not you can sleep anywhere, your circadian rhythm will take a hit when you travel across several time zones. To help combat this, sleep aids may help. For instance, on a red-eye, consider taking medications like Ambien, Benadryl, or Melatonin. These sleep aids may also be used if you find yourself at night, wide awake.
One caution with this method, make sure you don’t mix the sleep aids with alcohol. Also, with melatonin, the body can develop a tolerance to it if you take it too consistently. So, save this method for when you are trying to readjust to a new time zone.
Another kind of sleep aid to consider is a natural sleep aid. Herbal teas with chamomile, for instance, are effective at assisting with restful sleep.
With your internal clock off-kilter, you need to avoid anything that will keep you awake when you don’t want to be. It’s an easy way to minimize jet lag’s symptoms or avoid it altogether.
If caffeine is essential, then drink water afterward to stay hydrated!
Take Small Naps, If Needed
You have to listen to your body here. If it’s 1 pm and you’re struggling with yourself, go lie down for 2-3 hours. Make sure it’s no longer than that, though. Keep in mind when you’re working on how to get over jet lag, all you want to do is get through the sleepy humps that creep up on you, not ruin your sleep for the upcoming night.
Here are some techniques for relaxing before bed that you can take with you on your travels!
If you think having an alcoholic drink on the plane will help you sleep, then fine. Alternatively, if you avoid alcohol, you may avoid excessive sleeping on the airplane, meaning you’ll be better able to fall asleep once you arrive at your destination (assuming you land in the evening local time).
Regardless, make sure you drink plenty of water to prevent getting dehydrated. Dehydration can make jet lag worse.
Practice Good Sleep Hygiene
When you do try to sleep, give yourself the best possible chance to accomplish that goal. Use noise-canceling earplugs and eye masks, and avoid screen time before bed (bright light exposure from blue light from your phones can make getting to sleep harder!).
If you have regular bedtime rituals, stick to them. Our bodies remember our habits, and doing your usual routine can help signal that it’s time to get some rest.
These strategies helped me get over the jet lag that plagued me on my long trips. Often they helped me prevent jet lag altogether. Hopefully, they will help you on your journeys as well!
(Photos courtesy of Unsplash)