How to get rid of jet lag: a step-by-step guide
Do you ever plan an entire list of amazing things to do at your dream destination but end up spending too much time at the hotel because of jet lag? In this guide we will offer you various tips on how to cure jet lag and recover as soon as possible.
What is jet lag and what causes it?
Before we get to all the tricks you can do to avoid this horrible drowsy feeling, let’s look at what actually happens to your body when you’re experiencing jet lag.
When you cross 3 or more time zones in a short span of time, your body doesn’t get enough time to adjust to the changes and continues to function according to the time zone you’re used to. This internal clock is called the circadian rhythm, and when it doesn’t match the day-night cycle of the destination you’re in, jet lag occurs.
Jet lag is really annoying because there isn't an easy way to fix it. Other disruptions like flight delays and cancellations are equally annoying but luckily there is a simple way to deal with them: you can easily submit a compensation request and AirAdvisor will take care of it for you.
Jet lag symptoms
You might find yourself awake at odd hours and unable to get up as early as you did at home. Additionally jet lag can cause headaches, fatigue, drowsiness, dizziness, nausea and even constipation.
Unfortunately there is no medical treatment for jet lag. In the majority of cases taking sleep medication is not recommended, unless you already suffer from sleep disorders like insomnia. Sleeping pills can intervene with your body’s natural adjustment process and cause some unnecessary side effects, so natural remedies are the most helpful.
How long does jet lag last?
Luckily it usually takes only a few days to get over jet lag and adjust to the new time zone. We hope that the tips we offer you below will help you speed up this process.
How to avoid jet lag: before you fly
1. Manage your schedule:
The general idea is to adjust your daily schedule little by little every day of the week before traveling and to get your sleep schedule closer to the one you’ll have at your destination. For example, if you are traveling east, consider going to bed a bit later every day. Traveling west could be trickier because it is harder to fall asleep earlier than usual. But don’t worry, you can introduce small changes and shift your bedtime by 20 minutes every day to reduce jet lag in the future.
2. Get some quality sleep:
Drastically readjusting your schedule according to the new time zone might not be realistic for everyone. In that case the best thing you can do is to give yourself a good uninterrupted night sleep at least 3 days before you travel. Make sure you are well rested before getting to the airport because it will give your body more energy and resources to deal with jet lag.
3. Exercise and reduce stress:
Stay as healthy as possible prior to your trip. Avoiding stressful situations will let you have better sleep and exercising will release good hormones that you need to go through the journey. Try to avoid caffeine and alcohol and give your body all the rest it needs.
This might be a bit of an extreme option, but if you are really determined to reduce the effects of jet lag, you could try readjusting your eating schedule during the week before flying. According to medical research, feeling hungry can affect our biological circadian rhythm even better than exposure to light and darkness. So the next time you travel you can try out this 4-day intermittent fasting technique:
- Feast on the first day;
- Fast on the second;
- Feast again on the third;
- And fast on the fourth - the day of travel.
Remember to satisfy any health conditions and requirements you might have and pay attention to how you feel. If you don't feel healthy while fasting, this option might not be for you.
5. Set the clock to your new time zone:
To get your mind more used to the new rhythm, set your clock to the time zone you will be traveling to. It will help you get used to a new pattern gradually.
6. Get an app:
In order to create an action plan that successfully reduces suffering from jet lag you can use apps such as Timeshifter. They have a set-in jet lag calculator that determines what you need to do upon arrival and sends you reminders based on the details of your journey.
How to beat jet lag: on the plane
1. Stay hydrated
One of the most important things to remember is to drink plenty of water. Spending multiple hours in a closed in air-conditioned space can have a very dehydrating effect on your body, which will lead to headaches and exhaustion. Ask the flight attendant for extra water and cut out caffeine and alcohol. They can cause even more dehydration and make jet lag symptoms worse.
2. Move around
Stretch, do some neck and shoulder rolls, stroll along the aisle if you need to. Try to move around more as it will rush the blood around your body, feed some oxygen to your brain and ultimately help you fix jet lag faster. Healthy Travel Blog offers a whole list of exercises you can do on the plane to help you stay active and keep you energy levels up.
3. Go to sleep (when it’s time)
In general it is best to avoid snoozing on the plane at random times. Instead, check your pre-set watch and try to fall asleep when it’s appropriate for the new time zone. Light exposure plays a huge part in affecting our circadian rhythms, so be sure to avoid artificial light before you go to sleep. Both your own devices and on-board entertainment screens use blue light that can mess with your sleep cycle. Don't forget to close the window shade.
4. Make yourself comfortable
Ensure that you have everything you need to comfortably sleep on the plane: get ear plugs, ask the flight attendant for an extra blanket, bring your favourite sleeping mask on board. To avoid any neck pain, choose the right pillow. We prepared a list of the best travel pillows that you can choose from!
5. Choose light meals
We mentioned before that intermittent fasting can help you overcome jet lag. If that option was too extreme for you, consider eating as little as possible on the plane. If you do need a snack, try to have it at a time that’s appropriate at the place you’re traveling to. See if you can pre-book healthy meal options and don’t consume alcohol or caffeine on the plane.
How to recover from jet lag when you arrive
1. More sunlight
If you arrive at the destination in the morning whereas it is still nighttime for you at home - don’t rush to hide away at the hotel with your curtains shut. Instead try to stay outside, get some fresh air and some natural light from the sun. At the same time don’t plan anything too intense and give yourself some space to relax while staying awake. Go to sleep at a reasonable time and don’t forget to let your eyes rest by dimming the lights an hour before you go to bed.
Melatonin is a naturally produced hormone that helps us get quality sleep and regulates our circadian rhythms. Some doctors suggest taking mild doses of melatonin for jet lag recovery before you go to bed. According to the American Sleep Foundation you can get it through both prescribed medications and dietary supplements. It would be best to consult with a professional before purchasing either of these options.
3. Exercise and self-care
Even though you might feel very tired during the first couple of days, try to do some exercise to help your body produce all the necessary hormones it needs to recover from jet lag faster. Even a simple walk will do! Give yourself some time to relax and take it slowly.
4. Stay on track
It might be tempting to wake up and go to sleep at odd hours but you should really try your best to follow the local schedule during your first days. Do everything according to the new timetable - have your meals at an appropriate time and go to bed when it’s time to do so. It would also help to have a repetitive routine during the first 3 days - eating, getting up and going to bed at the same time every day.
5. Eat healthy and take some vitamins
It never hurts to eat nutritious food, and it is double important when your body is going through a drastic experience like jet lag. Make sure your diet includes plenty of fruit and vegetables as well as healthy proteins, stay hydrated and avoid junk food even if it’s just a snack. Vitamin B-12 helps you keep up the energy levels while vitamin D is closely connected with melatonin production, which will help you get the quality sleep crucial for getting rid of jet lag fast.
Jet lag tips for a short business trip
As a business person you might often be on the go, traveling to different countries in a short period of time. Not being able to stay at your destination longer than a few days can make it much more difficult to adjust and right when you do, it’s time to move again.
If you are such a fast traveler, some of the advice above won’t be applicable. Instead you might want to opt out for a different solution and adjust your work schedule and business meetings according to your usual circadian rhythm.
Try to notice which time of the day is the most productive for you and see if you can schedule the most important events for that time. That way you can spend those couple of days without changing your routine, which will also be helpful because you don’t need to re-adjust again when you come back.
Some appointments can’t be scheduled according to your timetable, so you can plan some resting time around those fixed meetings. Don’t forget about taking care of yourself and giving extra attention to your health before and during the trip.
Baby jet lag
It can be quite difficult to get used to the new time zone as an adult, and traveling with a baby seems like a different level of challenge altogether! However, your baby can rely on almost the exact set of tips as we provided above for adults. That being said, be more careful with melatonin supplements and vitamins and consult with a doctor before introducing any of them to your toddler.
It will help you massively to get the baby’s daily routine adjusted gradually before you travel. That goes for bedtime, meal schedule and naps. When you arrive at the destination, you will need to give your baby at least 3 days to adjust during which you should take regular walks or do any other type of exercise and get exposed to sunlight in the mornings.
After 3 days of adjustment you can start following the local time zone when scheduling the day. If your baby is 6 months or younger, this process might even be easier for them since they take a lot of naps - getting that much sleep helps them get used to the new environment sooner. You can find out more details about jet lag treatment for babies.
A Quick Recap
- Adjust your schedule according to the new time zone.
- Get quality sleep prior to traveling.
- Exercise and avoid stress.
- Try the 4-day intermittent fasting routine.
- Set your clock to the new time zone.
- Download some useful apps.
- Don’t forget to drink enough water.
- Move around and try to stay active.
- Sleep only when it’s time to do so at your destination.
- Make sure you have everything you need to be comfortable on the plane.
- Don’t eat too much on the plane and avoid alcohol and caffeine.
When you get there:
- Expose yourself to sunlight and fresh air.
- Take some melatonin if you need to.
- Continue exercising.
- Follow a set routine during your first days.
- Eat healthy, take vitamins, and give yourself space to rest.
When going on short-term business trips:
- Consider adjusting your work schedule around the time zone you’re used to.
When traveling with a baby:
- Start shifting your baby’s routine prior to flying and allow for 2-3 days of adjustment upon arrival.
Jet lag isn’t the most pleasant experience you will have while traveling but it shouldn’t stand in the way! The most important thing to do is to plan ahead and to make sure you have everything you need to get used to the new rhythm faster. Take extra care of your health during trips across multiple time zones and your body’s own adaptive mechanisms will catch up naturally.
Remember that if your long-haul flight gets canceled or delayed, you don’t need to deal with it on your own while trying to overcome jet lag. Reach out to AirAdvisor and a team of experienced professionals will help you with submitting a compensation claim.