Here’s how to not let jet lag symptoms ruin your vacay.
In case you were wondering, jet lag is real. Anyone who’s flown to the other side of the globe knows how the major flip in time zones leaves your body disoriented and sleepy. After all, sometimes it feels like you can barely adjust to Daylight Saving Time, so it makes sense that jumping past several time zones can plague you with jet lag symptoms, such as difficulty sleeping at night or exhaustion and irritability during the day.
Although you can take medication, such as melatonin, to treat jet lag, one of the best jet lag remedies is taking a proactive approach—sometimes even before you travel! Here are a few simple guidelines to practice before and during travel for jet lag prevention.
Gradually adjust your sleep before travel.To treat jet lag, prepare your body for the new time zone by shifting your sleep habits closer and closer to your destination’s time zone. (It’s the same concept as when your parents urged you to move your bedtime a little earlier every day during those precious last days of summer vacation.) The more you can retrain your sleep cycle to fit the new schedule of your destination, the more energized (and less cranky) you’ll be during the first days of your trip.
Change your watch or phone to your destination’s time zone. This simple jet lag cure helps reorient your mind to the destination. By preparing yourself mentally to jump into dinner when your body thinks it’s time for oatmeal and eggs, you will reduce confusion and easily slide into the new time zone. This jet lag cure works best if you adjust the time as early as possible—before you even go through the security check!
On your flight, use the new time zone to guide your behavior. If it’s 3 AM in your destination’s time zone, try catching some sleep. If it’s 3 PM, stay awake—except for maybe a carefully planned power nap. This jet lag cure further reinforces your body’s transition to the new time zone, so you’ll be less likely to experience those frustrating jet lag symptoms.
Upon arrival, continue following a typical schedule. If it’s 2 AM at home but 8 AM at your destination, try your best to stay awake. Go through the day as you normally would, having lunch and dinner and regular times and not sleeping until later in the evening. This may be easier than you think; the excitement of landing in a new place could give you a jolt of adrenaline! If you’re afraid you won’t sleep well on the plane, try planning activities for your first day of the trip that don’t require a lot of physical energy (like a long walking tour) but won’t put you to sleep (like anything in a dark theater).
This jet lag prevention tip will make your vacation or business trip far more enjoyable. But don’t forget to try the same tricks for your return trip! Using these jet lag cures will help you adjust back to your “normal life” a bit faster—although we can’t promise you’ll be thrilled to return to work.
Jet Lag and Sleep. Washington, DC: National Sleep Foundation, 2017. (Accessed on March 8, 2017 at https://sleepfoundation.org/sleep-topics/jet-lag-and-sleep.)
Sleep and the Circadian System. Washington DC: National Sleep Foundation, 2017. (Accessed on March 8, 2017 at https://sleepfoundation.org/shift-work/content/sleep-and-the-circadian-system.)
Back from Vacation? How to get over jet lag. Washington, DC: National Sleep Foundation, 2017. (Accessed on March 8, 2016 at https://sleepfoundation.org/sleep-news/back-vacation-how-get-over-jet-lag.)