As a frequent traveler, jet lag is an unwelcome, but constant fixture in my life. When I was a bit younger, I could adjust to any time zone in a day with no real issue, but that's unfortunately not the case anymore. These days I seem to carry around that hazy jet lag fatigue for a couple of days, but I'm able to bounce back noticeably faster when I put the following 6 tips into action.
- Re-set your watch. Set your watch to the time zone you're traveling to as soon as you get on the plane. The point is to start adjusting your body to that schedule as quickly as possible, so treat your time on the plane as if you've already landed.
- Adjust your eating schedule. Eat your meals on the plane according to your newly re-set watch (i.e. according to the time zone that you’ll be landing in rather than the one you’re flying from). Also on the topic of food, you're better off avoiding heavy foods when you fly so eat lighter, smaller meals than you otherwise would. Bonus points if you bring your own food rather than eating the horrendously unhealthy plane fare.
- Use a sleep mask on the plane. Put your sleep mask on during night time in the place you’re going to. Blocking out as much light as possible goes a long way in helping your body adjust and enabling you to sleep. Bring your own, more comfortable sleep mask rather than using the not-so-great ones that are (sometimes) provided by the airline.
- Take melatonin. Melatonin resets your circadian rhythm (your body's inner clock) so is an effective and well-studied jet lag remedy. Take it about 30 minutes before you would like to go to sleep for the few nights until your body has adjusted to the local time. Sublingual (under the tongue) tablets seem to work well for most people.
- Get as much natural sun exposure as possible. Once you land, get all the natural sunlight you can. This significantly speeds up the process of adjusting your circadian rhythm to match the local time.
- Use caffeine judiciously. This means not drinking anything caffeinated after 2pm according to the time zone of the place you're traveling the day before you travel, the day of travel, and for the rest of your trip. Drinking caffeine after that cut-off point will reduce the quality of your sleep (leaving you more tired whenever you do have to get up) and delay your body's ability to adjust. If you're really, really tired after 2pm and need to stay up, you're better off taking a quick power nap (less than 20 minutes) than drinking caffeine.
Now I'd love to hear from you. What tricks do you use to avoid jet lag?