How to Minimize Jet Lag at Every Stage of Travel
Updated: Feb 28
We’ve all been there: landing in a destination after crossing several time zones and having no idea what time of day it is. This experience understandably leads to feelings of dread about impending jet lag. Jet lag is that pesky problem that happens when travel disrupts your circadian rhythm—your body’s internal clock that tells you when to fall asleep and when to wake up. Your body falls out of sync because flying disrupts your exposure to daylight, your temperature, and even your hormones.
This disruption of your circadian rhythm may leave you feeling several unfortunate symptoms during and after travel, including headaches, nausea, fatigue, insomnia, difficulty concentrating, mood swings, and lack of appetite or other gastrointestinal problems. The good news is that your body will readjust eventually—the rule of thumb is that it takes a day per each time zone crossed—but keep reading for my tips on the best ways to reduce jet lag symptoms as much as possible during each and every stage of travel so that you can enjoy your vacation to its fullest.
Before Your Trip
Several days before your trip begins, consider easing into your destination’s time zone by gradually adjusting the time you go to bed at night and wake up in the morning.
During Your Flight
Upon boarding your flight, set your watch to the time at your destination, and behave in flight according to your watch, especially when it comes to eating and sleeping. While in the air, avoid alcoholic beverages, which can lead to dehydration and interfere with quality sleep. Instead, drink lots of water. You may also consider a caffeinated beverage if you’re traveling west, to allow you to stay awake until a reasonable bedtime. Sleeping in flight is easier said than done, so be sure to bring all of the accessories you need to make it possible. I recommend earplugs, noise-canceling headphones playing white noise, a sleep mask, and a travel pillow and blanket.
During Your Trip
After landing in your destination, stay awake as long as you can, ideally until 10 p.m. You might consider planning a full first day to keep you going, continuing to eat meals according to your new time zone. When eating, opt for foods rich in protein rather than sugar to give you sustained energy, and keep drinking lots of water. Caffeinated beverages can help in the morning hours but avoid them in the afternoon and evening to protect your sleep. As much as you can, get outdoors and soak up some sunlight to help reestablish circadian rhythms, and try to reestablish your daily habits and routines, especially surrounding exercise, as quickly as you can. When it comes to sleeping, try to avoid the urge to nap. If you must nap, keep it short to prevent jet lag symptoms from setting in. When you’re ready to head to bed, ensure the comfort of your sleeping space by setting a cool temperature and establishing a noise-free environment. Those who have difficulty sleeping might consider a natural sleep aid like melatonin, as well. For the tech savvy, while at your destination, check out Timeshifter, an app that offers suggestions on how to reduce jet lag based on your specific demographics, sleep patterns, and travel itinerary.
After Your Trip
After returning from your vacation, don’t let your guard down. I recommend getting back into your routine as soon as possible, especially if that includes morning exercise, while also taking breaks when you need them. Above all, continue to stay hydrated. In general, jet lag can be worse when traveling west to east, but it may last longer traveling westbound, so regardless of your destination, you’ll have experienced both versions after your return home.
And with these tips in mind, if you’re ready to plan that faraway trip you’ve been dreaming of, please don’t hesitate to reach out to me today! Wherever your travels take you, I’m wishing you the ability to “time travel” without the drag of jet lag.
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