Most of us at one time or another have experienced what we call jet lag. Crossing more than two times zones can throw off your circadian rhythm, leading to sleepless nights; exhaustion during the day; headaches; diarrhea or constipation; hunger at inappropriate times or lack of appetite; and difficulty concentrating and functioning. Needless to say, no one wants to experience such symptoms while going on a dream vacation! With travel season upon us, use the following tips to help beat jet lag, so you can fully experience and enjoy a vacation you’ve been dreaming of and planning for months!
1. Adjust your bedtime gradually before your trip
Adjusting your internal clock in advance of your trip is a sure fire way to help combat jet lag and its symptoms. Just as you plan your trip itinerary, plan a pre-trip sleep and eating itinerary as well at least four days in advance of your trip. Gradually shift your sleeping and eating times according to the time zone of your destination. The goal is to modify your body clock according to what will be the time change. Go to bed and wake up at the same time as if you were already at your destination, but work up to it in 30 minute to an hour increments. If you don’t work up to it gradually, you could start to already experience symptoms of jet lag before your trip starts.
2. Avoid sleeping as soon as you land
It’s very tempting as soon as you get to your hotel to dive onto the bed and take a cat nap, but think again. Instead of dozing off in the middle of the day at your destination, consider fresh air, daylight, and exercise, which are antagonists to jet lag. From the day of arrival, experience your vacation to the fullest from the get-go while defeating symptoms of jet lag at the same time. Even if your body begs to sleep immediately, resist the urge – you will thank yourself later – you are better off staying up until local bedtime!
3. Book comfy accommodations
To help avoid jet lag and achieve the best sleep possible that helps regulate your body’s circadian rhythm, why not invest in a hotel or hostel most suitable for sleep? You want to check into a hotel with the best sleep environment per room, especially when it comes to the mattresses. According to Sleep.org, the following hotels are notorious for having the most comfortable beds and quality mattresses: Westin, Four Seasons, W, Hilton, Marriott, Radisson, and Ritz-Carlton. When evaluating hotel sleep environments and mattresses, consider how you sleep, if you have back pain, if you sleep hot, or have some other comfort preference so you get your best sleep every night of your trip.
4. Get a good night’s sleep before you fly
It cannot be underscored enough to sleep well and be well rested prior to flight. You shouldn’t tire yourself out prior to flight and count on sleeping on the plane, due to so many factors that can prohibit quality sleep on a plane. Last day changes to your sleep pattern will only make it harder to adjust to a new time zone. Plan for if you are actually leaving 48 hours earlier, even if that means doing the hectic packing, hustle and bustle two full days in advance. Also, know what the current time is in your destination time zone prior to boarding the plane so you can time your sleeping and meals accordingly. You must get at least six hours of sleep the night before takeoff.
5. Try to sleep on the plane
Try to sleep in flight as much as you would in a 24 hour time period if on a longer flight. For a flight to Europe, all it takes is a few hours sleep to help you be functional when you land until local bedtime at your destination. Depending on the length of your trip, consider investing in first-class tickets so you have more reclining space, and if you don’t have that luxury, consider bring padding like pillows or blankets to make your seating area as comfortable and conducive to sleep as possible. Regardless of flight duration though, you should use the flight to rest and reset. Any sleep is better than no sleep!
Your first two days of travel don’t have to be necessarily plagued with jet lag, where jet lag is an inevitable fact of life for travel. There are active steps you can take and behavioral adjustments you can make to keep the effects of jet lag to a minimum. In addition to these tips, consider meditation and some self-love as well, as investing in sleep is investing in you. Sleep can make or break a vacation but also is important in your daily wind-down routine when you are at home.