Jet lag can occur any time you travel quickly across two or more time zones. The more time zones you cross, the more likely you are to be sleepy – and the longer and more intense your jet lag symptoms will likely be.
You might not be able to eliminate jet lag altogether, but keep reading for simple strategies to lessen its effects so you can spend more time enjoying your trip.
Give it time.
Keep in mind that it takes your body 24 hours to shift by just ONE time zone – and traveling east is much more difficult than traveling west because the time shifts earlier.
Consider adjusting your routine a few days early.
If you can plan ahead, try shifting your sleep routine by half an hour each night for 2 or 3 days. Change your watch before you board your flight so your brain can adjust to the changed time zone before your feet hit the ground.
Dehydration is one of the symptoms of jet lag, and dry cabin air doesn’t help. Try to avoid alcohol or caffeine, as they dehydrate you as well.
To sleep or not to sleep?
If it’s daylight at your destination, try to avoid sleeping on the plane. But if it’s nighttime there, try to sleep. If you have trouble sleeping on airplanes, consider the risks of sleeping pills before you take them- they can be dangerous since they induce a nearly comatose state, where your body moves very little. Immobility during flights can lead to fatal blood clots (deep vein thrombosis), which is the reason airlines encourage you to get up and move throughout flights of any length.
Once you’re there, don’t sleep – unless it’s nighttime.
If it’s daytime at your destination, spend as much time as you can being active and staying outside- the exposure to sunlight will help your brain adjust. Napping during the day will only make your jet lag worse, so limit any naps to 30 minutes if you have to nap.
Eat like you’re already there – and when you arrive, eat light.
Try to eat on the schedule that is consistent with the time zone where you’re arriving, not the one you’re leaving. When you arrive, restrict your diet to foods that are easily digested and not too rich. Many travelers swear by a diet of light foods for three days
As always, there’s an app for that!
Try JetLag Genie ($2.99 for iPhone) or Jet Lag App ($2.99 for iPhone). You can enter your flight details into either app, and it will create suggested schedule of when to sleep and eat to prepare for the time change.
Don’t have a smartphone? Try Jet Lag Rooster.
Have you suffered from jet lag before? What strategies have worked for you?