Even people who LOVE travel have to admit that there are sometimes things they hate about it. Airplane food for example. Being ripped off again by a money changer. Queuing for a visa. Travel is indeed one of the best things most people ever do, but some of it can be a real pain in the arse. And nothing more so than the dreaded jet lag.
Yes…you might enjoy eating plastic plane food, or standing in line at yet another dusty immigration checkpoint, or you might even think that getting short changed is part of the ‘local experience’. But no one likes being up all night, sleeping all day, missing out on the bulk of your holiday, and generally feeling like shit. I, for example, lost an entire trip to Hawaii because my body clock was completely screwed up. I may never visit Hawaii again, and all I managed to do was drag myself out of bed one day to visit a pineapple factory. I know.
What is jetlag?
Good question. What exactly is jet lag anyway? Jet lag is caused when we cross time zones and it affects our internal body clock. This is called your circadian rhythm, and when you travel this gets messed up and you can’t regulate when you need to sleep and when you should be awake.
Fortunately, there are things that you can do before, during, and after you travel that will help you to enjoy your holiday and beat the exhaustion, nausea, and disturbed sleep that comes with jet lag.
Here are the best tips to avoid jet lag…
Before You Go
1. Alter Your Sleep Patterns
One of the best ways to beat jet lag is to change the way you sleep several days before you leave. How you do this depends on which way you are travelling. If you are moving east to west then try to go to sleep a little later each day leading up to your trip. If you are travelling west to east then you need to sleep a little earlier each day. This means that your body won’t have to make such a big adjustment when you change time zones. If you aren’t sure when you need to sleep before you leave to lessen jet lag, then use an app like the Jet Lag Rooster app to help you. It’s free!
2. Factor in a Stopover
Of course this isn’t always possible but if you are planning a really long journey, like a trip from the United Kingdom to Japan, then stopping off somewhere along the way can be the best way to ease into crossing several time zones.
3. Arrive at Night
You can’t always choose the perfect flight, but try to find one that arrives as late as possible at your destination. We are usually tired at the end of a long journey and will want to sleep, so this can be easiest way of skipping jetlag all together. As soon as you arrive, try to go to bed and then you will wake up refreshed in the morning.
4. Try to Relax
Studies have shown that stress makes jet lag worse. As a result, try to relax before you travel and avoid stressful situations like last minute packing or a rush to the airport.
On The Plane
5. Use Earplugs and an Eye Mask
Sometimes we have to fly overnight and arrive at a destination in the morning which is one of the worst things you can do if you want to avoid jet lag. Still, it happens, so the best way to handle it is to sleep at the right time on the plane. If sleep is difficult, then use earplugs and an eye mask to block out light and sounds that will keep you awake.
6. Skip Alcohol and Caffeine
Alcohol and caffeine are fun but they are known to make jet lag worse. They also dehydrate you and are pretty much guaranteed to cause you to feel less than your best. They also work to keep you awake which means you will arrive feeling tired, disorientated, and dehydrated. It’s dull but try to drink plenty of water when you travel and save the coffee and beer for later.
7. Change your Diet
Like caffeine and alcohol, excess salt and sugar dehydrate you and make symptoms of jet lag worse. Airplane food is often not very nutritious and can be packed full of preservatives and other nasties. Try to eat healthy food when you travel such as nuts or dried fruit. Another good option is to order a vegetarian meal for the journey which is often one of the healthier choices.
8. Change the Time on your Watch
When you get on the plane, change your watch to reflect your destination. This means that you will know when you need to sleep and when you need to stay awake to be in sync with the country you are travelling to.
9. Don’t Bother with Jet Lag Medication
Lots of jet leg medication promises you the world without delivering. In fact, some of it can make you feel even worse and many remedies have been proven to have no effect whatsoever. Unfortunately, there is no quick fix with jet lag and your circadian rhythm needs to reset if you are going to avoid it completely. Don’t waste your money.
When You Land
10. Get some Exercise
It may be that the last thing you want to do after a long journey is exercise but it has been proven to help with jet lag. A brief work out or a jog around a park will help you unwind after hours on a plane and it will tire you out so that you are ready for a good night’s sleep.
Bonus tip: There are other things you can do to stave off jet lag such as avoid blue light from a device like a laptop or smartphone by wearing specially designed orange glasses. These make you look like a massive prat. If you want the same effect without the shame then consider downloading an app like F.lux which cuts out blue light from your device according to nighttime hours in your destination.