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It was 3 am in the morning. My husband was sleeping peacefully beside me as the sounds of the late night London street drifted through our window. As much as my mind screamed at me that this was going to make for a disastrous morning, my body simply refused to sleep.
Jet Lag. The bane of all travelers crossing any sort of time zone. If you’ve experienced it, then you know how much of a kink it can put into your plans to take a new city by storm.
Luckily, there is hope. Whether you’re just going from coast to coast, or you’re crossing over an ocean, here are my 7 tips to get over jet lag as quickly as possible.
Get There Early
Jet lag happens when you’re body is out of synch with the time zone you are in. Though your watch may tell you it’s time to sleep, your internal clock is telling you it’s time to play (or vice versus). One of the quickest ways to synch your body clock is to take a flight that arrives first thing in the morning. This allows you to immediately get your body on a new schedule that lines up with your local time zone.
Sleep on the Plane, Not at Your Destination
Hopefully your early morning arrival means that you will be taking an overnight flight. As tempting as it may be to stay up watching a movie or reading a book, try and sleep as much as possible on the flight over. If you have more than one flight, try to sleep on the longest flight. I usually try and zonk out in between the two meals that are served. Most flights will help you out by dimming the lights during this time.
Part of being able to sleep on a plane means bringing sleep aides. Airplane seats can be difficult to sleep in if you are not fully prepared. Eye masks and ear plugs (or noise cancelling headphones) are a must. Some people like the travel pillows that go around your neck (though I personally find them uncomfortable). And since the planes tend to run cold, I also make sure that I always have a pashmina or warm sweater (as the airplane blankets tend to be really scratchy) as well as some socks (the fuzzy ones are the best!).
Change Your Clocks
A big part of fighting jet lag is winning at the mental game. You need to convince your mind that this new time zone is the right time zone to be in. One easy way to do that is to change your watch and any other time devices to your new time zone the moment you get on the airplane. Then, as tempting as it may be, stop yourself from trying to figure out what time it is “back home.” That only encourages your mind to stay in the old time zone.
Cellphones and tablet make this a little harder. However, as you will hopefully be sleeping through most of the flight, it’s best to turn your device completely off when you take off (instead of just putting it in airplane mode) and then turning it on when you arrive. Not only does this save your battery, but this way it you will not have the reminder throughout your flight and it will automatically update to your new time zone once you land.
Make Your First Day an Active Day
Once you’ve landed, it can be so tempting to try and catch a few zzz’s. However, that is the absolute worst thing that you can do. Once you get to your place of lodging, drop off you luggage, take a quick shower (which does wonders to wake you up and make you feel better) and then head out the door. If possible, have an itinerary the first day that includes a long walk. The exercise (not to mention the sunlight) will help you stay awake. Which means, on the flip side, avoid any sort of activities that involve long periods of sitting or laying down, especially in darkened rooms.
To help your body adjust, it’s important that it stays hydrated. Drink lots of water on the plane (seriously, take advantage of the bottles and glasses they offer throughout the flight) as well as throughout the day. Try and avoid drinks that will dehydrate you (such as soda). While you may be tempted to use the caffeine to boost your energy, you’ll find that water is the best possible choice. Carry a bottle around with you on your walk to help remind yourself to drink all day long (I highly recommend a Hydro Flask to keep your water cool).
Eat Some Berries
If you’re a foodie like me, you probably have some local cuisine that you are dying to consume immediately after you’ve landed. However, eating a diet that is high in fat or salt will only make it harder to sleep later. For the first day, focus on fruits and vegetables, whole wheats, and lean proteins, as well as eating at your new local meal times.
Of course, that doesn’t mean you have to be boring! Find a local farmer’s market and see what sort of interesting local fruits and vegis you can find. Ask the vendors for something that you can only get in that city or that country.
Take Some Melatonin
When it’s finally time to go to bed, you’ll find that it’s usually pretty easy to fall asleep. The hard part is actually staying asleep. There is nothing worse than you’re eyes popping open at 2 am, telling your body that it’s time to be awake for the day (just like my story above). Melatonin is an all natural herb that your body already produces. By taking a pill before you go to bed (available over the counter), the extra melatonin will release into your system and help encourage your body to go back to sleep when it wakes up in the middle of the night.
Jet lag is a reality. Luckily, with a little planning, you can push through it quickly, acclimating your body’s internal clock to your new time zone so that you can enjoy all the delights of your new location. Just remember:
- Try to arrive early in the morning.
- Sleep as much as possible on the plane.
- Change your clocks to your new time zone.
- Stay as active as possible on your first day.
- Drink plenty of water.
- Eat fresh.
- Take some melatonin before going to bed,
Do you have any favorite tricks to combatting jet lag? Leave them in the comments section below.