Before you head off on your trip, you had all these grand plans about what you wanted to do. But then you flew across a time zone or two (or three) and landed, and it happened: the dreaded jet lag kicked in.
No matter how strong your willpower is or how much you tell yourself it won’t happen to you, your body’s internal clock overrules everything. The temporary sleep disorder happens when the new time zone messes with that biological clock.
You have trouble sleeping, resulting in fatigue and difficulty concentrating. You probably feel nauseous and light-headed. These are all common symptoms of jet lag, and the only way to make them go away is to get rest and wait until your internal clock adjusts.
But, you can minimize this problem if you’re prepared for it. Instead of convincing yourself it isn’t going to happen, why not plan ahead and assume it will? With that mindset, you can use these tips to reduce the impact jet lag has on your body and your schedule.
1. Slowly Adjust Your Sleep Schedule
How much of a time difference are you about to head into? An hour or two doesn’t usually have too much of an effect on the internal clock. Three hours or more will wreak havoc with it, though.
If you know you have a big trip on the horizon, start preparing early by slowly adjusting your sleep schedule to match the upcoming time zone. For instance, if your bedtime is three hours later there, stay up an extra half hour for a few days, and try to sleep in that thirty minutes. Then, increase that to an hour, and so on.
You might not be able to change your morning schedule, but you’ll slowly get used to less sleep, which will help you acclimate to the jet lag, too.
2. Stay Hydrated
If you’re going to get stuck with jet lag, you want it gone ASAP. Dehydration worsens the symptoms.
Drink a lot of water starting a few days before your flight, and keep your fluid intake up during it and after you land. The airplane’s cabin air is dehydrating, and the new climate you’re in could be dry.
Stay away from caffeine and alcohol since they’re both known dehydrators. Stick with as much water as possible for the few days while you’re in danger of jet lag disorder.
3. Plan Time in Your Hotel
Rather than packing your itinerary full of things to do, try to get to your destination a day or two early. Take that time to rest in your hotel and get familiar with your surroundings.
Give yourself plenty of time to unpack and go through your packing list to ensure you didn’t forget anything. Organize your clothes, toiletries, and accessories. Check in with everyone necessary and let them know you’ll be off the grid for a few hours. Then, shut the blinds, put on your noise-canceling headphones and a sleep app, and relax.
This forced rest time will give your body the chance to recuperate from the hours you spent traveling. Even if you can’t sleep, turn your phone off and lay in the peacefulness of a quiet room. Everything else can wait until your body has had time to adjust.
4. Eat Healthily
Travel eating is a thing. We tend to overindulge when we’re not at home, loading up on things we’d never let ourselves normally have.
Unfortunately, the junk food you ate while you were at the airport and on the plane, and after you landed is working together to worsen your jet lag.
Sugar and caffeine mess with your melatonin levels, delaying their release and keeping you alert and awake when you should be preparing for sleep. Grease and heavy meals affect the digestive system, which can keep you from restful slumber when you do finally get to bed.
Aim for healthy snacks and meals while you’re traveling. Watermelon and cucumbers are easy-to-prep snacks that fill you up and keep you hydrated.
Eat sour cherries before you land; the melatonin in them will tell your body to get ready for sleep. In lieu of cherries, nuts and seeds work well. The magnesium in them is an excellent sleep aid.
When international travel is on the agenda, jet lag is probably not far behind. While you can’t guarantee you’ll avoid it altogether, these four tips will help you minimize the effects of this temporary sleep disorder when you get to your destination.