Jet lag is my least favorite thing about traveling, but over the years I’ve gotten much better at beating it. It’s technically a sleep disorder that affects those who travel quickly through different time zones, causing their bodies to be confused and misaligned with the local eating, moving, and resting schedule. The key is tricking your body into aligning with the local time in your destination as quickly possible. With some practice, you can learn to beat jet lag before it happens so you’ll be ready to hop off of the plane and enjoy your new city.
The symptoms of jet lag can vary, but generally include feelings of exhaustion, difficulty concentrating or staying awake, crankiness, and may include disorientation or dizziness. When we visited Japan last year, which is a 13 hour time difference from where we live, I didn’t have as hard of a time adjusting to a schedule completely upended as I thought I might, because I followed these tips to prep for my flight ahead of time. I hope these help!
Before You Travel
One Week Or More Before Departure
About a week before I travel anywhere that’s more than 6 hours time difference, I try to gradually adjust my sleep schedule by making my waking and sleeping times closer to what it will be like in my destination. For example, when we were heading to Japan, 6am is the time I normally wake up at home, but that’s 7pm there. So, I tried to stay up as late as I could, and then I would sleep in as much as I was able to. While it threw off my schedule at home a bit, it made it much easier to adjust once I got there. If you work from home or are a person with a flexible schedule this is the best way to prepare your body for a major time change.
The Day of Departure
Without jeopardizing your flight departure time, try to get up at the time you would normally awaken, but adjusted for your time zone. On the day we left for Japan, I tried to sleep as much as I could throughout the day, I didn’t have any caffeine, and I ate meals on a Japanese time schedule. It felt weird, but it was worth the effort once I arrived.
During Your Travel
Keep in mind what time it will be at your destination during your travels, and act as though you are already there while in transit. Eat your meals at the times you would at your destination, and sleep, or don’t sleep, as you would at your destination. I prefer not to eat at all while flying, but if you must, keep your meals until the meal time aligns with the local time at your destination. The flight crew should be able to heat it up for you, if it gets cold.
Try to get up and walk around every few hours to maintain good circulation throughout your body, and drink plenty of water during your flight. Avoid drinking alcohol, caffeinated, carbonated, or sugary beverages while in transit, as these might disrupt your energy levels unnecessarily.
Immediately jump into the swing of things at your destination. If you land during the middle of the day, don’t eat until dinner, and do your best to stay awake until a reasonable bed time in your new destination’s time. Now would be the time to grab coffee, if you need it, and head out to go site seeing. Get some sunshine (with sunscreen), and do like the locals do. I promise you that this is the best way to ward of jet lag. Try to sleep in until a normal time in your new destination, and you’ll find that you’ll be in the swing of things in no time.