The Mayo Clinic defines jet lag as “a temporary sleep problem that can affect anyone who quickly travels across multiple time zones.” As a frequent traveler myself I know just how hard it is to get over jet lag.
But, after years of travel I’ve developed a few techniques designed to help you get over jet lag. Before we get to those, let’s review some of the symptoms of jet lag.
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Symptoms of Jet Lag
The symptoms of jet lag can be pronounced at times, or more subtle. Here are some common symptoms that sufferers of jet lag often report:
- Fatigue / Tired – this is probably the biggest and most “visible” symptom of jet lag. You are simply tired and your body is fatigued.
- Insomnia – Jet lag can make it difficult to sleep (and difficult to wake).
- Difficulty concentrating – Often due to the massive fatigue your body is suffering from, you may, at times, have difficulty concentrating – especially on simple tasks.
- Moods – irritability or depression can often accompany travelers suffering from jet lag. You are irritable because you are tired!
- Overall “ugh” feeling – probably the best way to describe jet lag is an overall feeling of “ugh!” You just aren’t right. Not at peak levels. That feeling of “ugh” could mean you have jet lag.
As noted, jet lag can be subtle sometimes. It can sort of sneak up on you – especially in the first 24 – 48 hours after travel.
Let’s get into some of the tips to get over jet lag.
11 Tips to get over Jet Lag
To get over jet lag there are certain things you can do before, during and after your flight.
Before the flight
Here are some ideas to mitigate the effects of jet lag. Before your flight do these things:
- Hydrate. Water is a key aspect to mitigating the effects of jet lag. By keeping your body hydrated you will give it the best chance to fight off the effects of travel and keep your immune system functioning a higher level. It can also help your body fight off the effects of the typically very dry air prevalent in airplane cabins.
- Get plenty of rest. Try to get some extra sleep if you can before your flight. Think of this as “house credit.” Getting plenty of rest is a key ingredient to minimizing the effects of jet lag when you get to your destination.
- Gently adjust your sleep/wake schedule before your trip. Wake up an hour earlier in the days before your flight to “pre-load” your body’s adjustment to the new time zone. If you are traveling someplace that is 10 hours difference shaving off 3 hours can make a real difference and if your new time zone is only 3 hours from your original time zone you can be pretty close to ready when you get there.
During the flight
During your flight, there are a few things you can do to strategically limit the effects of jet lag:
- Hydrate. Staying hydrated while you fly is a great strategy to limit the impacts of jet lag. It will keep your digestive system moving in the right direction, reduce the chance of getting and headache and keep your immune system functioning at the right levels. I’ve found that bringing a collapsible water bottle and filling it up after you get through security is a great way to make it easier to stay hydrated.
- Stretch on the plane and at the airport. Get the blood flowing by stretching and moving around. Loosen up your joints and digestive system by stretching and moving around a bit during the flight.
- Minimize alcohol. It’s tempting to kick back a gin and tonic on your flight – and by all means do so if that’s your thing. But don’t have 6 of them…being hungover and jet lagged is miserable…
- Sleep – if you can (and if it’s a time you’d normally sleep). It’s often hard to sleep on the plane regardless of whether it is day or night, but if it’s a time you’d normally sleep, get a little rest, if you can. You can build up a little “house credit” if you will that may come in handy later. You might even want to grab a great travel pillow to help you sleep a little better or some good quality noise canceling headphones (like the Bose Noise Masking Sleepbuds).
After the flight
After your flight, there are a few tips you can employ to help you get over jet lag:
- Get some sun. The sun is a key ingredient to getting your body to reset it’s “clock.” When skin is exposed to sun it reacts by turning cholesterol into Vitamin D which can support bone health among other things. It also plays a great role in “normalizing” your body to the local time zone. Specifically, light “influences the regulation of melatonin, a hormone that helps synchronize cells throughout the body” according to the Mayo Clinic.
- Eat on the local schedule. Continuing to normalize your body is a key aspect to getting over jet lag. So, even if you are not hungry, eat if it’s lunch time.
- Hydrate. Continue the theme of regular hydration (a great tip for non-travel days too). The water will keep your digestive system working, your cells and joints lubricated and likely reduce the chance of headaches.
- Force your body to adjust to the local time. If it’s day when arrive…try to stay up. Don’t crash out for 4 hours. If you absolutely have to, take a small 20 minute nap (sitting up will help you avoid dropping into a deep sleep). If it’s night, try to sleep. If need be, take a Tylenol PM (or whatever sleep medicine your doctor has prescribed you).
Final Thoughts on Getting Over Jet Lag While You Travel
I hope you found these tips to get over jet lag useful. While it may take a few days to get over jet lag, using these tips can shorten that time period and get you back on the right track. Employ them on your next trip and get to enjoying your vacation quicker (or that business trip!).
We’d love to hear you favorite tips to get over jet lag. Join the conversation by leaving us a comment and tweeting us @CBoardingGroup.
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- 9 Healthy Travel Snacks – eat smarter on the road
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- 7 habits of highly effective business travelers