When traveling, you want to make the most of your limited time, but jumping across several time zones in just hours can really take a toll on your body’s internal clock. It can take days for you to recover from that leap, experiencing symptoms such as sleepiness during the day, insomnia, confusion, hunger at odd times, or complete loss of appetite, irritability and sometimes an overall general weariness. All of this adds up to what is commonly known as jet lag. While you can’t completely avoid jet lag, there are a few things you can do to minimize the symptoms and still have a productive first day of your vacation.
Leave home well rested. Traveling halfway around the world is stressful. If you stay up all night frantically packing or partying, you may start to feel unwell right from the start of your trip. Be packed and ready to go at least 48-hours before your trip. Allow that two day time period to be orderly and peaceful. You may still have to go to work, but being mentally ready to fly before the actual departure, you’ll start the journey well rested and ready to face the frenzied travel period ahead of you.
Opt for overnight flights. If you can find a flight that leaves in the evening, you will be able to mimic your nighttime routine, allowing you to sleep on the flight, and depending on the number of time zones you cross, you’ll arrive in the morning or afternoon, making it easier for you to adjust to your new time zone. Upon arrival, do your best to stay awake until close to bedtime in your new location. If you nap at 3 p.m. and wake up at an odd hour, you’ve done nothing to help reset your body clock.
Stay hydrated. Recycled airplane air is lower in humidity than outside air, causing dehydration and sluggishness. For every hour you’re in the air, drink at least 8 ounces of water. Minimize your intake of caffeine and alcohol. Hydrate from the outside as well with moisturizing lotions and hydrating sprays. If you wear contact lenses, consider removing them while you sleep, and use eye drops to rehydrate your eyes.
Use sleep aids. Careful use of sleeping pills can help you fall asleep on the plane, especially if you’re flight is a daytime one. Depending on the length of your flight, you may want to consider a short-cycled pill, such as melatonin, or you could be very groggy when you land. Once at your destination, a sleeping pill on the first night can be helpful if you’re having a hard time adjusting to your new sleep schedule. However, use these pills with caution, especially if you’ve never taken them before. Try them at home first. The airplane is not the place to be testing out new medications.
Get outside. Upon arrival, don’t check into your hotel and collapse on the bed. Go for a walk and familiarize yourself with your new surroundings. The enemy of jet lag is exercise. The more active you are during your first day, the easier it will be for you to fall asleep the first night. If you wake up early the next morning, don’t try to fight it. Get outside even if the shops aren’t open yet. Enjoy the quiet time before the rest of the tourists are up and about.
Now that you’ve beaten jet lag, get out there and enjoy your vacation. Happy travels.