Jet lag affects nearly all travellers that cross time zones. Long flights are the same for most of us: they start off with enthusiasm and energy but end with aches, pains and intense tiredness. We're stuck in a sitting position for an extended period of time, we're dehydrated, and our feet are swollen from water retention in the legs. For many of us, it takes a day to fully recover from this. Feeling this way is the last thing you want when you arrive at your destination, whether it's for a vacation or you're at the start of an important business trip. Wouldn't you rather arrive fresh-faced and full of energy?
Here are twenty tips that will help you conquer jet lag once and for all.
1. Be active before your flight
As we all know, the time between getting through security and actually boarding the plane can be quite a long process. During this period of time, you should take the opportunity to ensure you maintain a level of physical activity right before your body remains in the same position for a long period of time. Rather than sitting around waiting to board, enjoy the open space that the airport terminal provides you. Take a long walk, stretch your legs and if you're up for it, find some stairs and walk or run up them a few times in order to get your blood flowing.
2. Consider staying awake during the flight
Staying awake and wearing your body out, can help you fight off the jet lag and keep you in your circadian rhythm. Although many people encourage travelling caffeine free in order to avoid jet lag. Frequent travellers advise having some coffee during the flight in order to remain productive; this can include getting some work done on your laptop or reading a book.
3. Fly east early, fly west late
If you're flying east, getting an early start will give you the entire day and plenty of daylight when you arrive. On the other hand, leave later in the day when you're heading west. There's no need to lose a night's sleep by leaving early in the morning and you'll be gaining time as you go west.
4. Get a good night’s sleep before you fly
A big mistake travellers often make is sleeping for just a few hours before a long flight – whether it’s due to pre-holiday excitement or a deliberate attempt to tire yourself in order to sleep throughout the duration of the flight. This will only make it worse. In addition, last minute changes to your routine will only make it harder to adjust to new time zones, while getting a good night’s sleep before your flight will leave your body better equipped to cope with jet lag.
5. Walk up and down the airplane aisle
Once you're on board, your options for moving about become much more restricted but there's no reason to think that you can't stretch out and stay loose in-flight. Get up and walk the aisle. This is especially practical on longer flights, which tend to be serviced by larger aircraft. This will make it less awkward to get up several times during the flight.
6. Avoid alcohol and sleep aids
They both will only increase the disruption to your circadian rhythm and can have additional negative effects. You also don't need sleeping pills. In addition, a glass of wine isn't going to help either. These artificial stimulants will affect your ability to sleep and increase jet lag recovery time. Your body functions best when it’s hydrated, so drinking lots of water is a great way to offset the effects of jet lag.
7. Workout immediately after your flight
Once you arrive at your destination, one of the most important things for you to do is loosen up your tight muscles and joints with some stretching. It doesn't need to take long, just something easy to get your blood flowing.
8. Stay hydrated
Dehydration will negatively affect your body by making you feel tired. You're more likely to be dehydrated while traveling, so be sure to drink plenty of water before, during, and after your flight.
9. Adjust your watch time
When you arrive at your new destination quickly adopt the new local time on all your devices. By doing this, it psychologically forces you to adapt to the new timezone. This also works wonders for adjusting your body clock. This only makes sense for longer trips across multiple time zones but has been found to be effective for trips lasting a week or more.
10. Give yourself time to adjust
Don't dive right into planned activities upon arriving at your destination - whether that's business meetings or sightseeing. Give yourself an adjustment period. Get a workout in at the hotel gym. Prioritise sleep and rest. If you can, schedule your least demanding plans early in the trip and the most demanding ones towards the end.
11. Take a nap
According to the National Sleep Foundation, a study by NASA on sleepy military pilots and astronauts found that a 40- minute nap improved performance by 34% and alertness by 100%. If you arrive at your destination wiped out and have a big meeting or event planned, take a nap lasting no longer than 45 minutes (anything longer could leave you feeling groggy and even more tired).
12. Adjust your food-related clock
What you eat - and when you eat - can have a big impact on jet lag. Eating meals that are lighter and consist of mainly protein can be beneficial for keeping your energy levels up after you arrive at your destination.Eating patterns affect our body's functionality, just as much or even more than light. Try to avoid heavy meals on the plane, and then eat as soon as you land. This should help your body to adjust to the new timezone.
13. Book a flight that arrives during the day
Catching sunlight after you arrive after a long flight can be very effective in helping to reset your body's clock. The best thing you can do after arriving, besides getting exercise, is to go outdoors and get some natural sunlight. Best case scenario: an outdoor workout complete with sunlight and exercise is even better and more effective in fighting off jet lag.
14. Change your sleep pattern before you leave
NASA prepares astronauts for missions by shifting their sleep patterns in the days before launching. According to some scientists who participated in research on the effectiveness, "you can actually shift somebody to anywhere in the world in about two or three days" simply by altering normal sleep patterns. Starting a few days before your trip, gradually adjust your sleeping habits to the time zone of your destination.
15. Pack the right things in your carry-on
Having things in your bag that will keep you feeling fresh can go a long way in fighting off jet lag. These include deodorant, a toothbrush, toothpaste, mouth wash, ibuprofen, tissues, band aids, and an extra set of clothes. These will help you arrive fresh at your destination and could be helpful if an emergency comes up.
Use these tips to ease the discomfort of crossing multiple time zones and get the most out of every travel adventure you take.
Nicole Fernandez Medina