Nothing drains the fun out of travel like four days of sleepwalking through a new city due to jet lag. Unfortunately, that’s what happens after flying across time zones in an uncomfortable, cramped plane. No matter how hard you try to beat jet lag, you will spend at least sometime in that special zombified state. But here are some jet lag tips to make sure you get down to exploring your destination as soon as possible.
Jet Lag Facts
When you’re jet lagged, it can take almost a day for each time zone you crossed in order to adjust. Those more used to traveling back and forth can push their internal body clocks to adjust by about two hours per day.
Traveling east is always harder on your sleep cycle than traveling west, because traveling east shortens your day while traveling west gives you extra time you can use to adjust.
People with rigidly set sleep schedules get hit the hardest with jet lag.
Even if you’re not traveling across time zones, just traveling north to south, jet lag can still hit you because of the hours spent in a plane. A combination of crying babies, cramped seats, and five inches of leg room don’t make for a good night’s sleep.
Jet Lag Tips
Don’t sleep early or take long naps when you get to your destination, no matter how tired you are. Try to stay awake until it’s time to go to sleep in your destination, and if you absolutely must take a nap, limit it to 20-30 minutes max. Any more than that and it will screw up your sleep cycle for days.
Always adjust your meal schedule as well. One of the lesser known jet lag tips; most people who know to adjust their sleep schedule forget that their bodies also gauge their daily rhythms according to when they eat. This is something you can adjust even a couple of days before your trip; try to eat breakfast food, lunch, and dinner as close as possible to the times you would eat at your destination.
Use melatonin pills to help you sleep. Melatonin is a naturally occuring chemical that makes the body feel sleepy, and taking over the counter melatonin pills before bedtime abroad can help ease you into your new sleep cycle.
Expose yourself to sunlight as much as possible. Daylight plays a huge role in regulating the body’s Circadian rhythm (the natural cycle that determines when you feel awake or sleepy). Spend as much time outdoors as you can to force your body to adjust to the new daylight hours. If you want to know when you should seek sunlight or darkness to help you adjust, British Airways has a cool Jet Lag Advisor calculator to help you figure it out.
Stay active. Lying around is the surest way to slip into an unplanned three-hour nap and make your jet lag worse. If you start feeling tired but should be awake in your new time zone, exercise or just try to take a brisk walk to get some energy back.
There’s an app for that – Entrain. Because of course there is. Entrain is a new app that asks you some questions about your normal sleep schedule, then calculates the new Circadian rhythm you should follow on your travels, and gives you a schedule of lighting recommendations to follow in order to help dimish your adjusment period.
Taking a nightcap to help you sleep is a bad idea. Dehydration, which will most likely happen anyway on a plane, tends to worsen jet lag. Alcohol will dehydrate you even more, so try to avoid it on the flight and on the day you arrive at your destination.