Frequent flyer? Here are 6 ways to fight that pesky jet lag
The first time I experienced severe jet lag, I was so exhausted I couldn't think straight and didn't even recognize it as jet lag until my fellow travelers laughed and pointed it out. I spent most of a short trip to Asia listlessly sightseeing, and tossing and turning through the night thanks to a 12-hour time difference. When I returned home, I still spent the next few weeks working on adjusting back to Eastern Standard Time, so I made it a personal mission to never suffer such terrible jet lag again.
Now, as a frequent flyer, I have gained tips and tricks on how to minimize jet lag, which I've managed to incorporate with some success. (Side note: Being both self-employed and a night owl, maintaining a regular sleep schedule is not my forte.) For a person who clocks regular zzz's, these six tips should help!
#1: Take melatonin. According to my GP, taking melatonin is not very good for insomnia but it does a decent job at helping to reset your body's clock to help limit jet lag. Melatonin is the hormone your body makes to regulate its sleep cycle, and some studies show that if you take it after dark on the day you travel and for the first few days after dark once you arrive at your destination, it can be beneficial at adjusting your biological clock.
#2: Gradually change your bedtime before you travel. If your travels are taking you east, go to bed an hour earlier each night for a few nights before you leave on your trip, and vice versa; if you're heading west, go to bed an hour later each night in the days leading up to your trip.
#3: Switch to your destination's schedule immediately. If you arrive in the morning and you want to sleep, resist crawling into your hotel suite's bed and carry on through the daytime and evening as you would. Sometimes exposure to daylight, fresh air and exercise can help energize you, so consider going for a walk or hike if your schedule allows once you land.
#4: Sleep on the plane if it's nighttime in your destination. Carefully select your flight wardrobe and essentials to be conducive to sleep. Wear loungewear so that you're comfortable; go with layers so you can adjust based on the airplane's temperature. Pack earplugs and a sleep mask so you can create your own dark, quiet environment. Bring a neck pillow to help you get as comfortable as possible in your seat (an inflatable one is easier to travel with, but the regular pillows are typically more comfortable). If you're in economy, accept that you won't be getting quality sleep, but know that a few winks of snoozing is better than nothing.
#5: Pack sunglasses. Using a pair of shades when traveling can help you adjust to your new time zone more easily, says research from the Edinburgh Sleep Centre. Since it controls how much light you take in, tweaking your exposure will help you adjust to your new time zone and to recover more quickly once you get home. The estimate faster than the one day of recovery for every hour difference of your westward travel.
#6: Eat your meals at regular times. While most tips for alleviating jet lag focus on adjustments to your sleep schedule, recent research focuses on the effect meals have on our body's clock. A study conducted by researchers at the University of Surrey in British Columbia found that cabin crew who ate meals at regular times according to the light-dark cycles experienced less jet lag than those who did not maintain a regular meal time schedule.