There Are Things You Can Do to Prevent Jet Lag From Turning Your Trips Into a Total Drag
You can't completely stop the effects of jet lag, but there are things you can do to minimize the effects when traveling between time zones
If you've ever traveled to a different time zone, then you know how hard it can be to overcome the challenges of jet lag. Whether you're too tired to leave your room or starving at a time when it's inconvenient to eat, this temporary malady can make it hard for your body to adjust enough to enjoy your new surroundings. But there are ways that you can minimize the impact of jet lag when you travel.
- Try adjusting your sleep schedule a few days before your trip.
- Skip the alcohol and caffeine before and during the flight.
- Set your watch.
- Make a plan to get started in the morning and stick to it.
- Go outside and stay active, especially on the first day.
- Take breaks if needed, but don't allow yourself to nap.
- Sunlight does wonders to wake you up.
- Sleep on the plane, but only if it's time to sleep at your destination.
- Plan your "must" activities for later in your trip.
- Make it as easy as possible to fall asleep at night.
Most trips between time zones are planned a good bit in advance. If you know you're going to be traveling to a new time zone, start adjusting your sleep schedule a few days before you leave. Some studies have suggested that it takes a full day for your body to adjust to each time zone you pass through. So while it may not be completely practical with your work schedule or other things in your daily routine, getting to sleep 15 minutes earlier every night for a few nights can make a big difference in the time it takes you to adjust.
When you're traveling, it can be easy to want to indulge in a drink to relax or a quick cup of coffee to feel a little more alert. But alcohol and like caffeine both cause dehydration. Since air inside jets is notoriously dry, alcohol at higher altitudes make dehydration even worse. This will inevitably make jet lag feel worse. Throw on top of that a headache caused by the change in pressure and dehydration and you're going to feel miserable when you finally land. If you do drink alcohol or caffeine, don't overdo it and drink plenty of other fluids to keep your fluid levels in check. Too much caffeine during your trip can make it much harder to get to sleep at the right time at your final destination.
When you board the plane, change the time on your watch and your phone to match the time of your destination. It will give your mind sublet hints about what time it 'should' be and can help you get onto the right schedule. Just don't make the mistake of changing the clocks before your trip. You don't want to miss your flight.
If you know ahead of time that jet lag is going to make you have trouble waking up, plan beforehand how you're going to make yourself wake up. You could schedule room service to be delivered at a certain time. Or you might pre-pay for a morning tour so that sleeping in will cost you money. Give yourself an incentive to get going. It will feel rough, but your body will adjust pretty quickly to the change. Just resist the urge to snooze. One of the easiest things you can do is open your eyes when you hear the alarm, which will help keep you from falling back asleep.
If your surroundings will permit it, do tasks and activities in the morning that will keep you actively moving and in the sunlight. Doing this will help you feel more awake both physically and mentally. Go on a walking tour or a hike. You can even just explore the new area around you without a particular destination. Who knows? You may stumble across a hidden gem in the new place that will make your trip more enjoyable.
You're going to get tired at some point during the day, so plan a break for either mid-day or late afternoon. Try not to nap during this time, which will mess up your body clock even further. Use it to recharge by listening to music, reading, or people-watching. If you do nap, limit it to only 15 or 20 minutes.
Your body's internal clock is set by the amount of light you see. So if you want to get adjusted quickly, get out into the sun. Artificial light does have an impact, but you want the real deal so your body can learn the new schedule.
It can be tempting to take a nap on the plane, especially if you've had a busy day. But you should only sleep on the plane if it is the proper time to sleep at your destination. If it's noon at your destination, sleeping on the plane will only make it harder to adjust once you arrive.
Just in case you have a hard time following these tips, make sure to schedule the activities you want to do the most for after you've been there for a few days and your sleep cycle has adjusted. It may be hard to wait, but you don't want to miss out because you fell asleep or were too tired to fully enjoy it!
Having a regular bedtime routine will help your body relax and get ready for sleep. Avoid caffeine and alcohol in the afternoons and evenings, as these can affect your sleep cycle. If you can't avoid them, compensate with an easy morning the next day. Don't forget to minimize distractions before bed, such as your cell phone, television and loud noises.