How to Overcome Jet Lag (Tips That Actually Work)

As we begin to return to international travel, we know there will be longer lines and more protocols to deal with. We have to reach the airport earlier and spend more time to reach our destination. All of these things add up to a day of travel and the last thing you want to deal with is more jet lag.

When flying to a new time zone, the biorhythmic disturbance known as jet lag is inevitable, but if you know how to minimize the symptoms, it can make that first day at your destination much more enjoyable.

Over the years of crisis-crossing time zones, we’ve learned some great ways to beat jet lag, and they really work. Also read: What to expect when traveling during COVID-19

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Jet lag tips

Jet lag can occur even on trips of several hours. It’s all based on your circadian rhythm, otherwise known as your “body clock.” When your sleep and wake patterns are disrupted it can throw that internal clock out of sync and have some really negative effects on your body and mood.

Symptoms of jet lag

You know that feeling when you arrive at a destination and you feel tired and unmotivated. Can’t you sleep at night or are you bored? Not the way you really want to start a vacation? The symptoms of jet lag are wide-ranging, but here are a few that we’ve experienced over the years:

  • Irritability or irritability or other mood changes
  • Difficulty falling asleep
  • Feeling tired during the day
  • Can’t sleep through the night
  • brain fog
  • Stomach or intestinal problems

These are just the symptoms of jet lag that we have encountered but we have heard of people losing their coordination and even feeling disoriented and not knowing where they are. Disrupting your circadian rhythm, or internal clock, can have some nasty side effects. That is why it is important to take steps to reduce the symptoms of jet lag even before boarding the plane

How to Get Over Jet Lag Before You Go

One of the best ways to prevent jet lag is to adjust your habits before getting on the plane. When we were crossing multiple time zones on a trip, we found that doing so helped minimize the effects of jet lag while we were at the destination.

Shift your internal clock before you travel

Almost everything you read addresses how you can overcome jet lag when you land, but our advice is to start before you go. Now, this may seem impossible, or inconvenient, but it really worked for us.

You can try it yourself a few days before you leave and set your own schedule for when to fall asleep, when to sleep, etc. But we found that using the Timeshifter app made things a lot easier. It depends on when you need to sleep, when to take melatonin, when not to consume caffeine, and even when to get bright light exposure (or not) where we are flying.

It helped prepare our bodies when we landed at our destination. It also gives you tips and advice when you land.

How to reduce jet lag on a plane

Hopefully, you’ve taken our advice on preparing before changing time zones, but if you haven’t, there are still things you can do on the plane to help ease those jet lag symptoms.

Drink plenty of wate

Staying properly hydrated is probably the simplest thing you can do in flight that can help you reduce the effects of jet lag on the ground. Dehydration makes it more difficult for the body to adjust to new circadian rhythms, and we don’t want that.

We recommend packing a refillable water bottle in your carry-on and filling it up before boarding the flight. This way you don’t have to wait for them to bring you water and you can properly hydrate during your flight. Remember, you need to drink even if you are not thirsty.

Avoid alcohol

We don’t drink alcohol when we fly. When we were new travelers, we jumped at the chance to have a glass of wine on the flight, but we paid for it later. The effects of alcohol are greater at altitude and a person becomes dehydrated more quickly while flying.

It may not be the most popular choice, but we recommend avoiding alcohol unless you’re visiting a resort or hotel. Your body will thank you for it.

Avoid sleep-aids if you can

We try to avoid sleeping pills at all costs. We want change to happen naturally. But if you need to take sleeping pills, be sure to use something natural like melatonin. Other types of sleeping pills can have a negative effect on your ability to deal with jet lag because it unnaturally forces you to sleep.

get some sleep

Sleeping on a plane can be a real hassle. But if your jet lag plan calls for you to get some shut-eye, make sure you do it. Falling asleep on a plane isn’t easy but if you have the right travel pillow and sleep mask, it can actually be more comfortable than you think.

If I have to sleep on a flight, I make sure to get a window seat, so I don’t get annoyed when people get up to go to the bathroom, and I tell the flight attendant not to bother me about food.

How to overcome jet lag when you land

If you’ve done everything we’ve suggested up to this point to cure jet lag, you should be in good shape. However, there are a few things you should do when you land that will make things easier.

Get some natural light exposure as soon as possible

Natural light plays a huge role in telling your body when to rest and when not. That’s why it’s so important to get out in some natural sunlight after you land. This is true regardless of whether you are flying east or west. If you’re traveling east, it’s best to expose yourself to morning light to advance your body clock. If you’re traveling west, try to get out in the evening light to delay your body clock.

We make sure to incorporate exercise and light to help sync ourselves to the current time zone.

Don’t fall asleep right away

I know the temptation to hit the hay and fall asleep is what your body wants to do, but it’s better to stay awake until it’s bedtime in your local time zone. This is usually the hardest task because your body wants to sleep during its normal sleep time. We recommend getting out and going for a walk or a hike. Any form of exercise will help you stay awake for longer.

Use food to trick your body

Food is also a trigger for the body to adjust to different time zones. We tend to associate certain foods with certain times of the day. So work it to your advantage when you arrive at a destination. For example, if we’re on a night flight to Europe, we try to eat breakfast as soon as we land, even if we’re not hungry.

This is another way to trick your body into thinking it’s breakfast time and that it should be on that schedule. It might be the middle of the night at home, but the sooner you can get your body in that time zone, the better off you’ll be.

Get a good night’s sleep

This can be harder than it sounds, especially if you’ve crossed several time zones. But it will be easier if you take our advice and follow these jet lag tips. If you find that you are having trouble sleeping, now is the time to start using melatonin supplements to help you sleep. We like to take it right before bed because it helps our body adjust its circadian rhythm naturally.

Try to close the blinds and dim the lights at least an hour before you go to bed, and turn off your computer or cell phone if you can. Blue light can really wreak havoc on your sleep patterns.

Jet lag is something that every traveler has to deal with at some point in their lives. Changing time zones and resetting your body’s internal clock may not be easy, but by following these tips, we’re sure you’ll feel more energized and awake on your next vacation.

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