Jet lag can take a toll on even the most seasoned air travelers. Thankfully, some of them have developed effective strategies for fighting (or at least mitigating) the nausea, body aches, and other crummy symptoms that often accompany long flights through multiple time zones.
Get a good night’s sleep before boarding.
The key to beating jet lag, says European travel guru Rick Steves, is getting plenty of rest prior to your departure. “If you leave frazzled after a hectic last night and a wild bon-voyage party,” he writes, “there’s a good chance you won’t be healthy for the first part of your trip.” Instead, tie up all your loose ends (packing, shuttle arrangements, etc.) early and reserve your final two days in-country for peaceful relaxation.
Book red eye flights.
By opting for overnight air travel, Fodor’s Travel notes that you’ll be able to eat dinner on schedule, and thus improve your chances for a good night’s sleep once you’re in the air. With the exception of particularly long flights, you should reach your destination in the morning or afternoon. This will allow you to essentially “replicate your normal schedule” and acclimate to the local time zone much more easily.
Don’t drink or eat too much.
As tempting as those complimentary cocktails or meal upgrades might be, The Learning Channel urges international fliers to refrain from ‘overconsuming’. Staying hydrated and relatively sober is essential if you want to feel rested and refreshed when your plane touches down. Besides, you’ll have plenty of time to eat and drink once you’ve reached your destination ― and the offerings will presumably be much better than airplane food and miniature bottles of Merlot.
When other methods fail, medication may be your best method of beating jet lag. One option is No-Jet-Lag, a chewable tablet that has been touted by airline employees and travelers alike. Other options include sleeping pills, antihistamines, and medications like Dramamine that target motion sickness. “If all else fails,” notes Independent Traveler, “try an alternate therapy.” One option is light therapy, which involves spending 15-20 minutes in direct sunlight once you’ve landed.
Condition your sleep once you reach your destination.
According to NHS Choices, several hours of uninterrupted sleep during your first night after arrival ― known as ‘anchor sleep’ ― is essential for adapting to a new time zone. If you’re unable to get as much sleep as you would during a normal night at home, then you should supplement your anchor sleep with one or two naps throughout the day until you’re back on track. Spending time in the daylight is key for readjusting your internal clock ― but if your trip lasts fewer than four or five days, then you should consider remaining on home time.
Take extra precautions if flying west to east.
Jet lag is a drag regardless of your destination, but it can be especially atrocious for those who travel to Asia, Oceania, or other areas of the world that require eastbound flights from the U.S. The Washington Post offers this simple explanation: “Each morning, your body compensates for this slight discrepancy by contracting your internal clock to synchronize with the 24-hour sun cycle. When you travel west, you gain several hours, so your day is extended and your body gets the extra time it naturally wants. But when you travel east, your day is shortened.” So if you have tickets to Japan, China, Australia, or other eastern destinations, double-down on your jet lag strategies; otherwise, look forward to crippling sleep deprivation that can easily last one week or longer.
Do you have any tried-and-true methods of beating jet lag?
By Brad Nehring