Do you love to travel? It’s a passion of mine to experience new cultures and meet new people. However, getting back to the normal routine when I arrive home can be a challenge – hello jet lag.
There’s actually a medical term for jet lag, it’s called desynchronosis. Airhelp.com defines it this way: It means that your circadian rhythm – your body clock – is out of sync. Your body thinks it’s still in one time zone, but it’s physically somewhere else. So it gets confused, tired and stupid.
That sounds like me when I get home from a trip! If you’ve traveled internationally, can you relate?
Today I’m sharing my top 4 tips to curb jet lag…
1. Plan sleep based on your final arrival time
I learned this from my first international trip to Amsterdam. It was AMAZING, but I was wide awake at midnight the first night. That trickled into sleep pattern challenges on the following couple days.
Unless you have an overnight flight that lands the next morning, coordinating sleep can be a real challenge. Add in a dramatic change in time zones, and it really requires a plan. I recommend naps based on the entire timeframe of your travels. Do you have connecting flights before your last leg? Plan a few hours of sleep on a flight that’s not spaced too closely to your arrival time. This bit of rest will help you push through to a normal bed time in your new destination. If you sleep a ton on a flight that’s not overnight based on your final destination, it will be much more difficult to adjust.
To help you stay awake during times you need to resist sleep, watch action movies, listen to music and allow sunlight to come through the cabin window whenever possible. When you need to utilize a flight for some rest, be sure to avoid screen time, brush your teeth (or do another bedtime ritual), wear comfortable clothing, and try a sleep mask to eliminate light.
2. Stay hydrated and eat lightly
Drinking lots of water will keep you hydrated. It’s always important, but especially when traveling as dehydration aggravates jet lag. Stay away from alcohol, coffee, soda and tea – they will further dehydrate your body and can also work against sleep patterns.
It’s more difficult for your body to digest food at high altitudes. In fact, it’s been proven that feasting and fasting around long air travel across multiple time zones can reduce jet lag. So eat plenty the day or so leading up to your travel and eat lightly on travel days. Avoid the salty, highly-processed foods you often get served on planes. When possible, pack some fruit, raw veggies or unsalted nuts for snacks.
3. Time exercise to help your body clock
I’ve found mornings or afternoons are the perfect time to boost my body with a bit of exercise. It gives a burst of energy for a few hours which really helps when adjusting to a new time zone. It doesn’t have to be a long, strenuous session. You might take a brisk walk, do some lunges and squats, pound out some jumping jacks or take a few trips up and down some stairs.
A bit of exercise shortly after you land from a long flight will get your metabolism into gear and help your body clock begin to regulate. If it’s daylight when you land, take your exercise outdoors, which brings me to my next point…
4. Reset your body clock with sunlight
Our internal clocks naturally regulate with the sun. You can leverage this when preparing your body for a different time zone.
- When traveling east, get exposure to bright light in the morning, but avoid it late in the day.
- When traveling west, avoid light earlier in the day and get more exposure in the evening.
When you’re settled and adjusting to a time zone, try spending an hour outside in the morning after the sun is up. During the afternoon, try at least another 30 minutes outdoors. Sit near windows any time possible during the day. All of the sunlight will help your body clock resync much faster.
The thrill of seeing new places and experiencing cultures is well worth any challenges with jet lag. But, using a few tips to lessen the impact can definitely help.
Now it’s your turn! How do you handle jet lag with long air travel? Comment below or email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.