With my first international trip (and flight) in two years, I’ve recently had to recall and research some of my surefire remedies for avoiding – or at least lessening – the woeful experience of jet lag. I’ve prepped myself now (since our flight leaves tomorrow!) and thought I’d share my five best tried-and-true methods with you for your next trip!
Hopefully, this one’s a “duh” addition. Your body doesn’t like to be messed with, period. You’re already succumbing it to recycled air, cabin pressure, time changes, and a cramped seat for hours on end – the least you can do is show it you love it. This means no alcohol, no coffee, and lots and lots of water. And not just in-flight, either: research shows that reducing or altogether eliminating caffeine and alcohol from your diet for 24 hours before and after a flight significantly helps your circadian rhythm adjust to a new time zone more efficiently. So ditch that Starbucks, avoid an in-flight cocktail (remember one drink in the air is worth 2-3 on the ground), and keep moisturizing cream and eye drops on hand for your thirsty skin, too. If you suffer from flight anxiety, opt for calming tea or even anti-anxiety meds or sleeping pills (talk to your doctor before this, though.)
2. Adjust your body clock
Don’t stay up late at a rager the night before a flight. Start adjusting your body clock more to the time zone of your destination: if you’re heading east, go to bed and wake up gradually earlier than normal for a few days before you leave (and if you’re heading west, try staying up and rising later.)
3. Sleep on the plane
I usually adjust my watch/cell phone to my destination’s time zone as soon as I get on the plane, then depending on the time it is there, I try to sleep. I’m a horrible sleeper if I’m not in my own bed, so I know how hard it is to sleep on a plane – but a good pair of earplugs and even a low dosage, short-term sleeping pill can help tremendously. And turn off that TV screen! Ambient light screws up a sleep cycle like no one’s business.
4. Stay awake until it’s evening at your destination
Even if you arrive at 4am (which I’m doing in Iceland), do your damndest to stay awake until after sundown in your new destination. It’s easier to do this if you spend the day outside in the sunlight (spending it indoors will just beg you to lie down) and eat light, healthy meals. If you can, stay up until at least 8pm. And if absolutely necessary, a 20-minute nap can help – but no more than that, seriously. Set an alarm! Twenty minutes can turn into 2 hours in a snap.
5. Fast n’ Feast
A recent tool in my arsenal involves the scientific study of an elaborate fast and feast plan. The full details can be found here, but I find that just modifying the routine to fit my own needs (which is what you should be doing anyway) works best. Understand your metabolism and the way your body works to determine if this is right for you. Personally, I find that adhering to a feast 3 days prior, a “fast” (light meals, low calories) 2 days prior, and then a day-before diet of a protein-heavy breakfast followed by a carb-heavy dinner works. Don’t ask me why. But it helps me sleep on the plane (presumably from the carb crash), and keeps my metabolism active – which helps ward off excess bloat and sluggishness on the plane.
None of these are foolproof methods, and nothing will completely prevent your body’s adjustment period when you arrive in a new time zone in a new part of the world. But they can definitely help cushion the blow, and aid your body to transition more smoothly.
What are your best tips for avoiding or reducing jet lag?