Jet lag can be a major bummer when traveling. You arrive at the airport, ready to take on everything the new destination has in store, yet your body just seems to be on a different page. Jet lag refers to the symptoms you experiences when your body’s circadian rhythms are disrupted by travel, switching time zones quickly from east to west, or west to east.
Experts say that jet lag can last several days while the body readjusts and gets in tune with the new time zone. A general rule of thumb is that for every time zone you cross, you’ll need one day recovery time. So if you’re traveling from San Diego to Boston, you’d need about 3 days recovery until your body’s circadian rhythms are back in synch.
Luckily, there are some ways that you can speed up the jet lag recovery process. These tips are especially helpful if you’ll only be in a destination for a few days, or if you want to hit the ground running as soon as you land. Follow these five easy steps to minimize the effects of jet lag:
People that are in shape are generally less affected by the changing of time zones during travel. This is because a fit body is one that is more durable and less prone to fatigue and stress. If you’re not normally active, try doing some physical activity before your trip. Take long walks, eat a healthy diet, drink plenty of water and squeeze in as much physical activity as you can before you embark on your trip. If you land during the day, fight the urge to nap and instead take a brisk walk. Stay as active as you can for the first few days in your new locale – your body will thank you for it.
During your flight, change the time on your watch to match the time in your destination. This will help your mind make the transition. As soon as you land, start adapting to the local schedule. If you arrive at dinner time in your new location, but it’s only breakfast time back home, eat dinner instead of breakfast. If it’s daytime, spend time outside in the sunlight to alert your body that you should be awake, even if the clocks back home say that it’s bed time. The sooner that you adopt the local schedule, the faster your body will adjust to the new time zone. You can even begin preparing before you even board a plane by slightly adjusting your sleep schedule at home to match what your sleep schedule will be when you arrive at your destination.
Staying hydrated with the right kind of liquids is extremely important in combatting the effects of jet lag. Drink plenty of icy cold water before, after and during the flight to stay hydrated and rejuvenate your body. Although you might be tempted on the plane to drink coffee, juice, soda or alcohol, avoid these caffeinated and sugary beverages. Caffeinated and alcoholic drinks can cause you to become more dehydrated, and can also mess with your sleep schedule. These beverages can also trigger nausea, or make any anxiety that you are feeling about travel even worse. Stick to water before you take off, and after you land.
Go to bed at a normal bedtime, no matter how badly your body wants to shut down and rest in the evening. Avoid going to bed before 9pm local time so that you’ll wake up at a fairly normal time the next day and be ready to go. Going to bed too early can actually prolong the effects of jet lag, as you’ll most likely wake up too early and feel fatigued the next day. If flying east-west and gaining hours during the day, still try to go to sleep at a normal time. Many people use sleeping aids or melatonin to get to sleep quickly, but these methods aren’t for everyone. Use sleeping aids sparingly, and only if completely necessary. They can also alter your sleep pattern, make you feel nauseous or put you in a funk when you wake up.
Travel can be stressful for many people, so remembering to relax, take deep breathes, and be mindful of your comfort is extremely important. Wear comfortable clothes on the flight, bring along eye covers and earplugs, your favorite music or a book. If you arrive at your destination tired and tense, you’re already setting yourself up for a rough first day. Resting on the plane will give you the energy to tackle whatever the day brings in your new locale. If you are still feeling tense when you arrive, schedule a massage at a local spa or at your hotel, get a cup of tea at a local coffee shop or take a hot shower after checking in.