If you have ever traveled across multiple time zones, you are probably well aware of the effects of jet lag and how it can put a damper on the start of your trip. In a perfect world, we would land at our destination and be ready to hit the ground running. In reality, sometimes our bodies just aren’t able to go along with that plan. The end result is that may be spending time in your hotel room resting when you could be out exploring.
As an avid traveler who loves to explore, I have tried all different forms of preparation and remedy for jet lag over the years. I have kept myself awake before flying, taken different medications and natural remedies to help me sleep on flights, adjusted my sleep schedule prior to traveling, and used various other strategies to help prepare my body for the large time changes associated with international travel.
In this article, I am going to tell you what I have learned from my research and my own personal experience on what really works and what remedies that are out there you should absolutely avoid. With this information, my hope is that you can be better prepared to battle jet lag on your next big trip.
Understanding What Causes Jet Lag
If you have ever wondered why your body often feels the most energized and drowsy at the same time, the answer is that it is the result of your body’s circadian rhythms. Your circadian rhythms, or your body’s internal clock, is what sends alert messages to your body triggering alertness and sleepiness at regular intervals.
When we travel across multiple time zones, we throw this internal clock out of whack. Our body’s internal clock might be telling us it is time to start getting ready for sleep when the day is just beginning, or perhaps it is telling us we should be getting up when the rest of the people at our destination are just starting to get ready to go to bed. This disruption of our circadian rhythms is what is referred to as jet lag.
Get Good Rest Before Flying
From personal experience, the best advice I can give you to battle jet lag is to get as much sleep as you can before traveling. A few times that I have taken international trips I have tried keeping myself awake before flying with the thought that I would sleep on the plane and start adjusting to my body’s new sleep schedule as I traveled. I cannot stress to you enough how bad of an idea this is.
Even if you do manage to get some sleep on the plane, it won’t be quality sleep. Instead of feeling more rested and adjusted when you land at your destination, your body will feel even more out of whack than if you had gotten a quality night sleep before traveling. This is why I think it is critically important to make sure you are well rested before traveling so that you don’t compound the effects of jet lag when you arrive.
Try to Arrive in the Evening
If scheduling permits, I like to always try and schedule my flights so that I arrive at my destination in the evening. This way, I am able to get to sleep that night and have a full night’s rest before I start exploring the next day. Chances are, you won’t be able to get any real quality sleep during your flight, so falling asleep when you arrive at your hotel that night won’t be much of an issue.
Choose Your Flights Carefully
Sometimes our choices in flights prohibit us from being too picky about the flights that we pick. However, often times we are left with more than a few choices of which flights to choose and which aircraft we are going to fly on. If you do have a choice of which type of aircraft you are going to fly on, that choice can have a huge impact on how jet lagged you feel when you arrive at your destination.
Newer aircraft, such as the Boeing 787 Dreamliner and Airbus A350 have new technology that is designed to make your flying experience more comfortable and prevent jet lag. Both the Airbus A350 and the Boeing 787 Dreamliner pressurize their cabins to a higher pressure than traditional aircraft, which makes the cabin’s atmosphere feel more like the atmosphere you are used to on the ground. In addition, they both have better air quality and humidity controls that are designed to be much easier on your nose, throat, and sinuses. All of this gives you a more comfortable atmosphere to rest in while you fly.
In addition, the Airbus A350 also has state of the art LED lighting in the cabin that has roughly 16.7 million lighting combinations that it uses to match the lighting in the cabin with the time of day. This will help expedite your body’s adjustment to the time chance and help prevent the feeling of jet lag when you arrive at your destination. So if you have the option to fly on an Airbus A350 or a Boeing 787 Dreamliner, I would suggest you choose that option if you can.
Schedule Extended Layovers
If you have the flexibility in your travel plans, another strategy that can do wonders for preventing jet lag is to schedule an extended layover. Spending a few days at a location halfway to your destination will allow your body to adapt to the time change more slowly. If I am visiting multiple countries during my trip, I will try and keep the time zones in mind when I do my planning.
I will try and visit the country in the time zone closest to me first, then work my way outward instead of traveling to the furthest country first and working my way back. In some occasions, airlines will offer extended layovers for long flights. If not, you can always create an extended layover by scheduling a multi-destination flight.
Eat Healthy and Stay Hydrated During the Flight
Another important tip that I can give you for avoiding jet lag that I have learned from my own experiences traveling internationally is that eating healthy and staying well hydrated is important. Your body will be going thru a lot of adjustments as you travel thru many time zones. If you don’t eat healthily and stay hydrated, you will make it even more difficult for your body to adjust to the changes.
I try and avoid junk food when I am traveling internationally and I try to drink a lot of water before and during my flight. Granted, this does lead to more necessary bathroom breaks, but you feel a lot better when you land.
Avoid Drinking Alcohol or Coffee During Your Flight
Speaking of staying hydrated, a great way to not stay hydrated when you travel is to consume a lot of adult beverages. It is no secret that consuming alcohol dehydrates your body, so you should minimize, if not eliminate, alcohol consumption when you travel. Besides, arriving at your destination with a hang-over will only further compound any jet lag weariness that you might be feeling.
Relax Your Schedule Before Flying
I already mentioned how your body is going thru a lot of adjustments when you travel over a large number of time zones and how important it is to take care of your body. However, this doesn’t just mean that you should take care of yourself while you are traveling. It is important to take care of yourself before you travel as well.
Stress is another factor that can impact how much jet lag effects you when you travel. In addition to depressing your immune system, it will hamper your body’s ability to adjust its internal clock. It is important for you to minimize the amount of stress you are under before you fly so that your body is in the best position to deal with the time change as possible.
The best way to minimize the amount of stress you are under before you travel is to relax your schedule the week before you leave. Instead of rushing to get things ready for your trip at the last minute, I suggest you start packing at least a week ahead of time. Have everything ready to go well before you leave so that you don’t have to stress out about it. Not only will this make things easier for you on your day of travel, but it will help your body adjust to the time change as well.
Get Up and Stretch During Your Flight
Long haul flights can be absolutely brutal on your body. Sitting in the same position for 10+ hours can leave you tight and with a variety of different aches and pains. More worrisome is the fact that it can also restrict your blood flow and lead to blood clotting. That is why it is important to make sure you get up and stretch every-so-often when you are taking long haul flights. Studies have proven that exercise and stretching help alleviate the effects of jet lag. If you would like some additional tips on how to make long-haul flights easier, please review my article on the top tips for surviving a long flight below.
|How to Survive a Long Flight|
Avoid Taking Sleeping Pills While Traveling
Believe me, one of the worst things that you can do to try and avoid jet lag during your travels is to take sleeping pills to try and sleep on your flight. Even if they help you fall asleep, the chances are you won’t get really good, healthy sleep. Not only that, but you will arrive at your destination even more tired than you would have been and your body will be spending its energy battling the symptoms of the sleeping pills in addition to adjusting to the time change. For that reason, even if it means you won’t be able to sleep a lot on your flight, you are better off not taking sleeping pills.
Use Melatonin, it Works
If you are looking for a way to help with sleep but would like to avoid the adverse effects of sleeping pills, then I would strongly recommend that you take a look at Melatonin supplements. From personal experience, I can attest that this supplement works very well without leaving you feeling drowsy and tired. Studies have proven the effectiveness of using Melatonin supplements to aid with sleep and this can make a big difference in your battle to combat jet lag on long trips across multiple time zones.