How many precious moments have you wasted in a hotel room overcoming jet lag instead of seeking out adventure? Next time try these tricks that actually work!
Traveling into a different time zone can interrupt your circadian rhythms which regulate your sleep cycles and lead to a variety of unpleasant jet lag symptoms – from irritability to headaches and nausea. Dealing with jet lag when all you want to do is explore your destination is one of the worst feelings.
So often travelers accept it as a side-effect of seeing the world, but it really doesn’t have to be. There are plenty of ways to get around jet lag and hit the ground running as soon as you land. Don’t waste anymore travel time struggling to get sleep and feeling crabby and unpleasant for days. (raises hand) Here are a few tips to go prepared and ready to combat jet lag before you even leave your house.
“All too often, when people don’t know where they are, have jet lag, don’t speak the language, and can’t figure out the money or maintain intestinal regularity, they get hostile.” – Mary-Lou Weisman
West is Best, East is a Beast
This is totally true!! When I fly to Asia from California, I’m usually able to hit the ground running with little, to no down time at all – like a travel pro (or just lucky). Coming home is a different matter entirely. Even if I go to bed at the correct time the first night AND I get a full 8-9 hours rest, it never fails. At around 2pm I become narcoleptic and my body refuses to stay awake any longer. This will last for a solid 3 days. It’s crazy and irritating!
Things is, when you travel westward, you are entering time zones that are behind your own, essentially extending the day. Our bodies adapt better to longer days rather than shorter ones; therefore, our we tend to handle it better when we travel west. Flying east and cutting out hours of the day makes it harder for us to adjust to the new time, and can make it nearly impossible to fall asleep at an appropriate time. Take this into consideration when making plans and do your best to get on the correct time.
Arrive in the Morning
Try to book your flights so you arrive in the morning or at least during the day. Even if you didn’t get much sleep, landing at your destination during daylight hours will help encourage you to keep going, making it easier to adjust to the new time zone. The sunlight helps tell your brain that it is daytime, and that you need to move. You won’t have such a strong pull to head straight to the hotel and sleep as you would if it were dark outside.
Sleep on the Plane
Try to get some rest on the plane. I know there’s free movies to catch up on and amazing airplane food to gorge on, but seriously, this is the absolute best thing you can do for yourself. If you have a hard time sleeping on planes, use a comfortable contoured eye mask and noise cancelling headphones to block out everything so you can get some z’s before landing. Those ridiculous travel neck pillows really are quite useful for reducing neck pain and be sure to use your backpack or carry-on as a foot rest. I’ve created a “sleepy time” playlist of my favorite soothing, slow music that is also super helpful for when I’m having trouble sleeping in a hotel room or strange place. After just a few times using it, it’s almost like my brain knows what to do when it hears the first song. “It’s time to go to sleep.” I rarely make it to song 3 before passing out. Hopefully getting in some sleep before landing will help give you some extra energy instead of having to rely on caffeine.
I don’t know about you, but it is dangerously tempting to have a cocktail or two on the plane. Especially when they are free! I’ve even used it to try and make myself tired, since alcohol does tend to make me sleepy. BIG MISTAKE – especially if you are trying to avoid jet lag. You are essentially dehydrating yourself and making jet lag symptoms even worse. Not to mention, waking up with a hangover on top of jet lag is definitely going to ruin the first few days of your trip. Skip the cocktails on the plane and try to hydrate with water. Save your libations for that amazing secret watering hole you’re going to stumble upon when you arrive because you’re out exploring instead of sleeping in your room!
Skip the Caffeine
Avoid caffeine while flying. Yeah, yeah – I’m also guilty of this. But, like alcohol, coffee dehydrates you – making jet lag symptoms even worse. So this includes sodas and anything else you use to get your daily caffeine fix. Stick with water and stay hydrated. It will help you to feel better and can help you sleep better as well.
Don’t Pull an All Nighter Before You Go
Be sure to get proper rest before (and during) your trip. If you are anything like me, I have a hard time falling asleep before flights and especially when I’m traveling and sleeping in strange beds or rooms with creepy sounds. I am usually so amped up from the excitement of a trip that my mind is racing by the time I lay down.
A lot of travel friends rely on prescription sleep meds or melatonin – both of which always make me super groggy in the morning so I actually prefer not to take them. I recently came upon ORB wellness products at Costco and I’m telling you, it’s a game changer. Their Sleep Complex has time release technology, and I don’t fully know how it’s possible, but I am able to get the rest I need, yet still be able to wake up feeling energized. While it contains melatonin and valerian to help me relax, there is also the natural antioxidant L-Theanine which gives a calm sense of well-being. But I think the genius of this product is the B12. I don’t have any problem getting up when I need to, and I find I’m usually in a pretty good mood and feeling great. This has become a permanent staple in my travel bag and I highly recommend trying it – even if you’ve tried others like I have.
The key to staying awake is to get out and move! Don’t succumb to that comfortable hotel bed and vegging out in front of the TV. Whole days are easily lost when an extra half hour in bed turns into a whole day in bed. (It’s happened more than once!) Stick to a routine, and be sure to get up and going each morning. There is way too much to see in this world to waste time in a hotel bed.
This is a partnered post. All opinions remain my own.