When you change more than one or two time zones, your body’s internal clock often rebels, disrupting your sleeping patterns and making it hard to enjoy your trip. Here are 10 quick and easy tips for beating jet lag.
Start to Change Your Sleeping Pattern Before You Leave
Even if you’ve just booked a last-minute cheap flight to a land far away, you can still try to change your sleeping pattern before you get to your destination. If you’re a coffee-drinker, try to ration your caffeine intake the day before you fly to match up with where you’ll be going. Foregoing your morning coffee so that you’re sleepier in the afternoon, or having an extra cup in the afternoon to help you stay awake on the flight so you can hit the ground running may work for you.
Look at a Layover as a Blessing, Not a Curse
Conveniently scheduled layovers can help you beat jet lag by providing a bridge between your old time zone and your new one. If you’ve got the time to spare, a day-long layover in your itinerary helps travellers get used to the new circadian rhythms in a more gradual way. Flying from Toronto to Japan? Pick a city mid-way (Honolulu sound nice?) and see if you can spend 10-20 hours there, adapting to the time shift.
A lot of people forget the importance of water intake for our mental health and overall feeling of wellbeing. Airplane-cabin air is very dry, and passengers in a rush to get through the terminal might consume less liquid than they would on a normal day. The result is that many air travelers don’t get enough fluids to help their bodies comfortably deal with stress — like the stress of jet lag. You’ll sleep better in your location and ward off symptoms like fuzzy thinking by making a point to drink plenty of water on the plane and in the airport.
Sleep for at Least 4 Hours at Night
Even if your body is telling you it’s noon where you’re from, during nighttime in your new time zone, try to get at least four hours of sleep. Four hours may not be enough sleep for you to function on normally, but it will provide a base of regularity for you at your destination. The next night your body will recognize the same hours as a time to sleep.
In your quest to sleep at the right time, and to take the edge off of any pre-flight jitters, you might feel like having a drink in the airport lounge is a good idea. However, because alcohol dehydrates you, you might actually feel more stressed and less able to sleep after a beer or two. When you do partake, drink a glass or two of water to compensate.
While some travellers are firm believers that staying awake until bedtime in your new location is the best way to adjust to a time zone difference, most experts say that short naps through the day of 15 minutes to an hour will help refresh you without damaging your ability to adapt to the new schedule.
Get Some Sun
We are not nocturnal creatures; sunlight is a potent reminder to our bodies that it’s time to be awake. If you’re finding that you’re sleepy during the daytime in your new time zone, go outside and take in the sunshine for 10 or 15 minutes. This should help your body perk up and realize you aren’t in Saskatchewan any more.
Try Aromas to Help You Relax and Wake Up
Many flight attendants and other frequent fliers swear by the effects of lavender oil and other relaxing aromas in helping them nod off when it’s time to sleep. A tissue or scarf holding a few drops of lavender oil by your face may help you resist the negligible attraction of the in-flight movie, while the scents of peppermint, menthol and cinnamon should help you wake up.
Eat Well on Arrival
Your appetite may be thrown off because of the time switch, but it’s important to start eating on the normal schedule of the new time zone. Make sure you get enough fresh fruit and proteins on the days after your trip; they’ll help you beat fatigue and feel more alert.
Get Some Exercise
Stretching on the plane is good advice to beat deep vein thrombosis and other travel-related ills, but doing some exercise in your hotel gym, or simply walking around your destination city, will help your body release some of the travel tension and let you throw off the jet lag sooner rather than later.
About the Author: Stephanie Moon is an award-winning travel blogger who has logged some serious air time coming to and from her home city of Ottawa. Naps are her favourite way to beat jet lag — in fact, she may be having one right now.