It's a familiar scenario: you're jetting off to your dream vacation spot and when the plane lands, you scurry to get your bags, all too eager to kickstart your travel adventures.
There are sights to see, foods to eat, and places to be. Except, as soon as you step off the plane, a wave of fatigue washes over you. You're disoriented, bone-tired, and drowsy. It's daytime, but all you want to do is sleep. The realization hits: you're jet lagged.
The effects of jet lag can be a nuisance, one that even your favorite faux fur blanket can't fix. But to beat jet lag, it helps to understand what it is and how it's caused.
You may not feel particularly jet lagged if you travel from one state to another. Jet lag only occurs when you travel quickly across two or more time zones, causing your body's biological clock to fall out of sync. The more time zones you cross, the worse you may feel.
Though temporary, jet lag symptoms can be unpleasant and might take a few days to subside, especially if you're traveling internationally. The symptoms include daytime drowsiness, irritability, headaches, loss of appetite, and sleep disturbances.
Jet lag symptoms tend to be more severe when you're traveling east rather than west. For instance, you may feel more jet lagged when you're traveling from California to Italy rather than Italy to California. This is because you lose hours when you travel eastward, which means your body has less time to adjust and sync up with its natural rhythm.
If you're going to be on a long-haul flight, spanning various time zones, eliminating jet lag entirely is out of the question. But here are some tips you can follow to reduce its impact and help you feel less jet lagged while you're away from home.
1. Pick the Right Flight
You can prevent the effects of jet lag early on — from the moment you book your ticket, in fact. When you know you’ll be on a long flight, opt for one that arrives early evening to prevent feeling jet lagged. This way, you’ll have a chance to explore the city, eat dinner, and then go to sleep, allowing you to get accustomed to being in a different time zone faster.
2. Stock Up on In-Flight Essentials
Jet lag symptoms can feel exponentially worse if you wind up pulling an all-nighter on the flight. If you have to catch an overnight flight, try to get as much rest as you can on-board. This can certainly be challenging in economy class, especially when you find yourself wedged between two people in a middle seat.
Selecting your seats in advance and splurging on business or first-class tickets might seem like the solution, but neither is always feasible.
While most flights provide a blanket and pillow, it’s neither the most comfortable nor the most hygienic. For maximum comfort, opt for a faux fur blanket and a compact pillow, such as a bamboo pillow. Bamboo pillows are a good choice, especially if you’re traveling light because they can be compressed.
3. Reset Your Schedule Before Arrival
Traveling anywhere with a drastically different time zone can be a disorienting experience. You’re in Asia and it’s daytime, but your body's telling you it's time to sleep.
To adapt to the change, don't just reset your watch when the captain announces it on the flight. Instead, consider resetting your entire schedule and establishing a proper sleep routine a few days in advance, especially if you know that you’re going to be traveling across several time zones.
Start by moving your bedtime and mealtimes closer to that of your destination. You don’t even have to make a significant change to your schedule; just sleeping and eating one hour earlier or later for a few nights can help you adjust to the new time zone and feel less jet lagged.
4. Try a Stopover
Jet lag hits hardest when you cross multiple time zones quickly. If time permits, opt for a route that has a stopover and spend the night. This way, you won’t be cooped up in the flight for hours on end and you’ll have the chance to sleep in a proper bed. Not only will you feel less jet lagged as your body adapts to a different routine, but you’ll also have an opportunity to see a new city.
5. Stay Hydrated
Water's the solution for almost everything. Clear skin, weight loss, now jet lag. But there's a reason why: staying hydrated can lessen the impact of jet lag.
When you're on a long flight, you're going to feel dehydrated because of the lack of humidity in the air around you. At the end of the day, cabin air is really just a mixture of air coming from the outside and recycled air that comes from you and your fellow passengers.
To ensure you stay hydrated throughout your journey, bring an empty water bottle with you and fill it up after security to carry on the plane.
When you’re on the flight, it might be tempting to reach for a small glass of wine, Coke, or coffee, but they're all dehydrating and you're bound to feel the effects. If you do feel compelled to reach for a drink, consume it in moderation to avoid feeling jet lagged.
6. Wait it Out
You might feel unenergetic, moody, and maybe even a bit unenthused about your trip as a whole, but you won’t be jet lagged forever.
It might take a few days, but since there's no proven method for total prevention, the best thing to do is wait for your symptoms to subside. If you have too much trouble sleeping, consider doing a guided sleep meditation, drinking a cup of herbal tea before bed, or even taking a melatonin supplement after consulting your doctor.
The best way to cope with feeling jet lagged is minimizing the symptoms by planning in advance, establishing a routine, packing cozy essentials, and above all, taking it easy. After all, you’re in a different city, so try to relax and make the most of your trip.
Have you ever felt jet lagged? Share your experience and tips in the comments below!