Business travelers do it. Honeymooners do it. Family vacationers do it. Every year millions of us fly long distances, but flying across multiple time zones can make it difficult to adjust to the time change when you arrive. Regardless of your reason for travel, don’t let getting there sap your energy, wits or enjoyment when you land.
Here are some tried and true remedies for overcoming jet lag symptoms: that lethargic, dingy feeling or even headaches and nausea that comes with skipping over time zones.
Adjust your bedtime – While on the flight, try to sleep when it is bedtime at your destination, not your home time. Since you are winging across the time zones faster than life on the ground, your sleep might feel more like a nap, but it helps you acclimate to the current time of day when you land. You can also prepare by adjusting your bedtime before your trip. If you are going west, stay up an extra hour each night for as many days as time zones you will be crossing. If traveling east, go to bed an hour early for as many nights. Likewise, when you arrive, try to turn in close to your normal bedtime based on the local clock.
Meals matter– When flying, time your food intake to meal times at your destination. If it is 3:00 am at your destination, skip the rubber chicken on the plane (you should be asleep anyway!). Proteins stimulate the body and carbohydrates induce relaxation, so if you must eat, go for the pasta. You can also condition your body several days before your trip by eating proteins like steak and eggs for breakfast and carb-load with a plate of spaghetti for dinner. Feel free to bring your own meal on the plane so you can eat what you want at the appropriate time. Limiting salt intake helps avoid bloating, so steer clear of high-sodium, prepackaged meals.
Stay hydrated – Drink up, but pass up caffeine and alcohol. Lots of water helps your body combat jet lag so carry a refillable bottle and keep swigging. Alcohol is dehydrating which will mess with your body clock, so nix the cocktails. If you must have a warm cup of something, drink herbal tea or decaf coffee.
Upgrade or at least stand up – To be more comfortable, consider splurging for business- or first-class airline seats. Fully reclining seats will make your snooze time dreamy so you will be more rested on arrival. Whether you are in the front or the back of the plane, be sure to get up and move around every couple hours to get your blood moving. Shoulder, back and leg stretches, knee bends and neck rolls help circulation which in turn combats jet lag symptoms.
Go to the light – Research shows that exposure to natural light helps to govern your internal clock. When you arrive at your destination, spend time outside or at least sit by a window to maximize your daylight absorption. You should also sleep with the shades open so the morning light wakes you. This light therapy will help you adjust to the local time.
Some people have more difficulty with jet lag symptoms than others, but these tips will help everyone. Whether you are attending a high-powered meeting or seeing the sights, follow these guidelines to keep your eyes open, have your faculties about you and avoid jet lag.