As exciting as visiting far-flung corners of the Earth may be, a common downside to this is jet lag. The frustrating consequence of flying east or west across three or more time zones, jet lag is a disruption of the body’s circadian rhythm which frequently causes symptoms such as sleep disruption, daytime drowsiness, impaired mental or physical performance, general malaise, and gastrointestinal issues. It can last from a few days to a few weeks, although tends to be worse when traveling east and when a greater number of time zones are crossed, and it confuses your body’s internal clock. Knowing how to recover as soon as possible from jet lag can help you maintain a healthy sleep schedule and overall wellness during your travels, as well as make the most of your trip, all very important. The key is to get your body’s circadian rhythm aligned with the sunrise and sunset schedule at your destination. Of course your body will eventually adjust, but here are some tips on how to get rid of jet lag quickly.
1. Embrace and adapt to your new time zone
The useful thing about modern technology such as laptops and phones is that they usually automatically update to your new time zone. You need to do this too. When you arrive, try to forget your old time zone as quickly as possible as you’ll have trouble at your destination if you continue to eat and sleep according to your old time zone. Plan your routine, such as eating meals and going to bed, according to the time at your destination.
2. Manage sleep time
Actively manage your sleeping schedule so that you sleep when it’s most appropriate to your destination. During your flight try to sleep during your destination’s nighttime, and you can use aids such as noise-canceling headphones, white noise, eye masks, earplugs and comfortable travel pillows and blankets to help. On arrival you should avoid the urge to nap if it’s daytime as this can make it difficult to sleep later on and will drag out your jet lag.
3. Stay Hydrated
Long-distance travel can cause dehydration, especially if you reduce water consumption during your journey to avoid bathroom breaks. It is important to stay hydrated as proper hydration can help manage jet lag symptoms and travel fatigue. Take an empty water bottle through airport security and fill it up once you’re in the terminal, or you can purchase water in the terminal or request it in-flight. Drink plenty of water upon your arrival too.
4. Light exposure
Exposure to light is important as it is partly because of changes in this during travel (due to different time zones) which interrupt your internal clock that you get jet lag. Increasing light exposure by getting outside in the sunshine can wake up your body and reduce the release of melatonin hormones which make you sleepy. Additionally, exposing yourself to morning light will help if you need to wake up and function earlier when you travel east, whilst getting more light at night can be useful if you need to stay up later in your new time zone when you travel west. There are also special lamps which expose you to light, often used by those suffering with seasonal affective disorder. Many types of light can help decrease jet lag, including lamps, light boxes, or even headgear.
5. Drink a caffeinated beverage
Caffeine does not cure jet lag, however it can be used as a tool to help you stay alert and focused during the daytime and to stick to your sleep schedule. Coffee, tea, fizzy drinks, energy drinks, and even chocolate contain caffeine, but be aware of the other substances in these drinks, such as sugar, before consuming them. Be sure to moderate or eliminate caffeine in the afternoon and evening as you don’t want to have difficulty sleeping from a combination of too much caffeine as well as jet lag.
6. Keep your sleeping space comfortable
In order to facilitate proper sleep, make your sleeping arrangements as comfortable as possible. Keep the thermostat in your room at a comfortable, cool temperature overnight and ensure any phones or clocks in the room won’t ring while you sleep. Pack some home comforts to help you sleep better and if you sleep with a white noise machine or fan, try to find something portable that you can take with you. Any other lightweight comforts such as a photo, a favourite blanket or familiar scented lotion can also help you fall asleep.
7. Try melatonin
Your body naturally produces melatonin to trigger sleepiness, but it’s also available to buy as a supplement to help with your sleep. It is possible to use melatonin supplements at night if your body isn’t ready for bed, or in the early morning hours to continue sleeping if you’ve traveled west. However, in order to avoid unwanted side effects, don’t take more than 5mg of melatonin at a time. Use caution when trying it, and be sure to talk to your doctor about any questions you have before using it. You can also try to eat foods that stimulate natural melatonin production.
8. Use medications
If you want to avoid struggling with jet lag-induced insomnia you can talk to your doctor about whether sleep aids may help you to get more rest during nighttime hours when you’re still adjusting to your new location. You may also consider taking these aids during air travel. However, keep in mind that sleep aids have side effects so you should discuss the pros and cons with your doctor, and sleep aids may not decrease daytime jet-lag symptoms. You can also consider herbal remedies which aid sleep, such as calming essential oils and herbal medicines.