written by Betty Nguyen
Disclaimer: I am currently fighting my own jet lag as I am writing this. But I am recovering nicely, which is the point of this post.
We've all been there - the first day of arrival from a transatlantic flight — complete and total zombie. You can barely function, you just want to sleep. It's like a brain hangover also known as jet lag. Jet lag can occur any time you travel quickly across two or more time zones. The more time zones you cross, the more likely you are to be sleepy and sluggish. And if you're an older adult like me, jet lag (and hangovers) will hit you harder and recovery will take longer.
Unfortunately, you can't avoid jet lag, but hopefully you can minimize the symptoms. Here are my six tips:
1. Rest and Adapt Before Flight
The last thing you want to do is deprive yourself of rest before your flight. Try to be well-prepared by adjusting your bedtime. If you fly east, go to bed earlier. Shift it a half-hour earlier each night for several nights before you leave. If you’re traveling west, do the opposite. You can also try moving your meal times closer to the time you’ll be taking them at your destination. I try to do this at least two days before my flight so I can get the much-needed rest before the trip. Being well-rested mentally and physically before your flight will help you cope with jet lag better.
2. Know Your Planes
Of course you'll sleep better if you can recline and move around without elbowing your neighbor. I find premium economy seats on airlines such as Lufthansa a good investment for room, comfort, and most importantly, sleep.
I also prefer flying on the Boeing 787 (aka Dreamliner), A350s, and the A380s. Equipped with humidification and LED lighting systems - these planes help reduce travel sickness and jet lag.
3. Avoid Alcohol and Caffeine
As tempting as it may be to grab a cocktail or an iced coffee before a flight, I personally try to avoid both before I board. The effects of alcohol at altitude will increase tiredness and cause dehydration, making it even harder to beat the inevitable jet lag. And consuming heavily-caffeinated drinks will definitely disrupt my sleep. These artificial stimulants will increase jet lag recovery time.
4. Sleeping Essentials
Neck pillow, eye mask, blanket, flight socks, and ear plugs are some of the key sleeping essentials on the plane. Make yourself feel comfortable as possible. Maybe dab some lavender oil or spray a scented mist if it reminds you of home. Having these essentials will prepare you for a better sleeping experience.
5. Stay Hydrated
Drink water before, during, and after your flight to counteract dehydration. Air inside the cabin is usually quite dry and you’ll notice your skin swelling and drying up - symptoms of dehydration. Your body functions best when it's hydrated, so drinking lots of water is a great way to offset the effects of jet lag.
6. Move Around, Fresh Air
Get up and walk around, do some light exercises, and stretch on the flight. Move around regularly and do exercises to keep the blood flowing. Investing in a pair of flight socks will improve circulation - not moving around is one of the most common effects of jet lag. After you land, get some fresh air and natural sun light. This will help your body adjust to the new time zone.
Unfortunately, there is not one universal trick you can use to eliminate jet lag. However, the above tips will aid in reducing the overall effects but be mindful that your symptoms won’t completely disappear. The most important thing in most cases is to stay hydrated and awake and not be tempted to stay in bed.
How do you combat jet lag? Let us know by commenting below.