If you possess that passion for travel, it’s the little things that keep your bags packed and eagerly awaiting the next adventure. Yet, with all the warm fuzzies we experience on long-haul flights, the one thing that we all dread is jet lag — that zombie-like sleep-deprived stage when crossing new time zones. Yet if you pre-plan well and pay attention to your body clock, you decrease the effects with these tried and true jet lag cures.
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I remember the first time I visited Italy, my awe-inspiring tour of the Vatican and its artwork, the eerie exploring of the Catacombs, deep below the streets of Rome, and the miles and miles of vineyards in Tuscany. Or more recently my 2-week road trip through Ireland with my husband and another couple, the emerald greenness of the countryside – and how I savored the taste of a pint of Guinness. And yes even when sailing on the Regent Seven Seas cruise on my bucket-list Baltic Sea adventure — AND crossing multiple time zones.
And while arriving at those bucket-list worthy international destinations is amazing, jet lag…not so much.
On these international journeys, I clearly recall the symptoms of jet lag. How those first few days, I felt like my feet were heavy and my brain fuzzy. My body clock was way out of whack and I did not like it.
Yet what I have learned when traveling through new time zones is that there are proven ways to fighting jet lag. From decreasing caffeine to non-prescription sleep aids, read on for 7 jet lag tips and tricks to turn your one-way trip of exhaustion into that epic adventure.
What is Jet Lag and what causes it?
Before we list the ways to fight jet lag, let’s start with what exactly is jet lag. Our bodies are creatures of habit and routine, naturally programmed to do a certain number of things in a 24-hour period. These routines are called circadian rhythms and include simple day-to-day things such as eating and sleeping on a schedule. When we board that long-haul flight and wing our way to destinations and time zones beyond, those rhythms are literally propelled into a tangled mess.
Common symptoms of jet lag include extreme fatigue, indigestion and bowel problems, loss of appetite, dehydration, memory and concentration issues – and the list goes on and on. In addition, these jet lag symptoms vary depending on your health, stress levels, and age. Those varying combinations make it mighty difficult to really nail down all the possible jet lag cures.
Oh boy, right? So what’s a girl to do? While no one cure works for everyone, read on for our suggestions to get rid of the jet lag blues as quickly as possible.
7 Simple Jet Lag Cures
1. Get a Good Night’s Sleep BEFORE Your Long-Haul Flight
I hear you – sleep BEFORE you leave? If you’re taking the family, you’ve got laundry to do, errands to run, multiple suitcases to pack…. And if you’re like me, as soon as you lay your head on that pillow, your mind is racing going over your checklist of things to do – to make sure you’ve done all those things to do. Sleep? (Cue in maniacal laughter.)
But seriously, in order to combat all those crazy jet lag symptoms, the best cure is to begin your journey rested with a good night’s sleep before taking off on your vacation. That’s why I plan additional time at least the night before – and to be honest a couple of nights before take-off – for plenty of rest with a non-prescription sleep aid.
I recently tried REMfresh – and I felt that its natural melatonin release pill with 7-hour absorption helped me fall asleep faster and stay asleep longer. Bonus: I woke up refreshed, without that dreaded sleeping pill grogginess.
2. Carefully Consider your Flight Schedule and Upgrade your Long-Haul Flight.
While we are all for getting a great deal on your flight, multiple layovers and extended time waiting for your next flight are exhausting. A good deal isn’t always a good deal when you consider the extra money you may spend during your layover – or that you’ll lose even more sleep before arriving at your destination.
And if there’s ever a time to upgrade, a long-haul flight is certainly the best reason. An upgrade will give you more room to stretch and even lie down, getting that much need rest before arriving at your destination.
3. Set your watch to your destination time when you board the plane.
Sarah Ricks, World TravelingMom, suggests “tricking” your body clock by living your final destination’s time as soon as boarding the plane. For example, if you’re departing New York City at 7:00 pm ET and your final destination is London, then set your watch for 12 midnight (the current time in England).
When you land, continue to live on that schedule – and avoid napping. Stay up until a normal bedtime of your new time zone.
4. Get as much sleep as possible on the plane.
In the perfect world, we’d all curl up into the fetal position in our little airplane seats and fall fast asleep. In reality, getting sleep on a plane is not unlike a Mom with a newborn – you sleep when you can.
The truth, though, is that on those long-haul flights travelers are generally flying red-eyes and land during the daytime of their final destination. This is the first chance you’ll have to try to adjust your time clock by sleeping.
To get help with sleep, you might consider taking a Sleep Supplement such as REMfresh (although I recommend trying any over-the-counter sleeping pill first in the safety of your own home).
5. Avoid Alcohol and Caffeine? Or Say Yes?
That is the eternal question. The truth is that the combined effects of alcohol and altitude and caffeine heavy beverages (coffee, cola, energy drinks) can cause increase tiredness and dehydration (both symptoms of jet lag) – and decreased ability to sleep.
Sarah Ricks, World TravelingMom, always avoids drinking alcohol or caffeine on the plane, and instead, drinking tons of water on the plane. (But she does look forward to sampling the local wine when landing.)
Personally, I’m somewhere in between, indulging in a glass or two of wine, and then attempting to get comfortable and get to sleep. I try to drink plenty of water the days preceding my flight, but not as much during the flight, because, quite frankly, too much water will require more trips to the bathroom – resulting in less sleep.
And whether to avoid alcohol and caffeine is a personal choice based upon how your body functions.
6. Stretch and move about the plane.
While you should get as much rest as possible on the plane, it’s also equally important to move about the plane and stretch too. Hello – scary things like deep-vein thrombosis are very real risks when flying –and swollen ankles aren’t fun either. Stretching exercises while sitting is also a good idea – even it’s simply sitting straight, stretching your legs in front of you (as much as possible in cramped economy seats!), and clasping your hands and flexing your shoulders.
7. Refuel and refresh your body.
Refreshing your body with a good healthy meal including fruits and vegetables when possible – both before, during and after your flight. Eating healthy while traveling will alleviate jet lag and leave you feeling as good as new. It might be tempting to rush for that fast food meal, but resist as much as you can!
And then the best part – once you land at your final destination, you’ll be refreshed and ready to explore – with only minimal jet lag.
These are only 7 jet lag tips and tricks. Do you have a tried and true cure for jet lag? Share with us in the comments below.