I don’t know about you but when I travel more than a couple of hours away from home, I suffer really badly with jet lag! It’s much worse when I travel east than when I travel west. I think it’s a common scourge for many travelers that can lead to precious vacation days being wasted while pulling yourself out of the depths of the bleary-eyed fog that is your brain on too little sleep! I badly needed tips to avoid jet lag. Travel time is too previous to waste it trying to get over jet lag. It was time to come up with a solution!
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Tips to Avoid Jet lag – Symptoms
My typical jet lag symptoms include fatigue, insomnia, dehydration as well as stomach problems. According to the Mayo Clinic we have circadian rhythms that signal our bodies when to stay awake and when to sleep. Jet lag occurs when your body’s clock is still synced to your original time zone instead of the time zone to which you’ve traveled. The more time zones you’ve crossed, the more likely you are to experience jet lag.
If you’re like me and suffer badly with jet lag, your circadian rhythms must be as stubborn as mine!
My Tips to Avoid Jet lag
When I traveled to Denmark in 2018 I was determined not to suffer my usual fate with jet lag. It was my first trip back to Denmark since we left in 1972 (I was just 8!) so I didn’t want to miss a second of it getting over jet lag. I did a lot of research to find the best tips to avoid jet lag and came up with a plan that really worked for me! Please keep in mind I’m not a medical professional – I urge you to do your own research before trying out any of my suggestions.
This was my plan during the flight for getting over jet lag:
- Sleep as much as possible during the flight. I’m not usually a good sleeper on long-haul flights but I managed to snooze on and off.
- Try to stay as comfortable as possible during the flight. I used a neck pillow, didn’t drink any alcohol and tried to drink enough water to stay hydrated.
- Walk the aisles and stretch a bit if I couldn’t sleep
- Eat as little as possible. Not that airline economy food is great, but I found this one difficult. Free food is free food 😉
- Set my watch to Danish local time during the flight
Other Tips to Avoid Jet Lag
- Choose a window seat. You can lean your head against it and not be jostled awake by passengers maneuvering through the aisles. Check Daniel’s post on tips for choosing a seat!
- Bring a pashmina or light blanket especially if you tend to be cold, like me. I always travel with a very light wool pashmina tucked in my travel bag. It’s been invaluable for both covering up and leaning my head on.
- Avoid caffeine both before and during the flight, especially if you know that it keeps you awake.
- Buckle your seatbelt over your covering or blanket so that flight attendants won’t have to wake you to check if you’re wearing your seatbelt.
- If you can, choose a flight that aligns with your pre-existing sleep schedule. It might make it easier for you to sleep during the flight.
- Try to avoid traveling when you’re sick or hungover. Don’t schedule your going-away party for the night before you leave!
- Bring a sleep mask and ear-plugs or noise-canceling headphones with you on the plane. The darker and quieter you can make it for yourself, the better your chances of catching a few hours sleep.
- Wear clothing that you can comfortably sleep in. I’m not advocating for travel in pajamas by any means but certainly choose yoga pants and athletic gear over jeans and other heavily structured clothing.
- Try to avoid using sleeping pills, especially if you’re not accustomed to them. You won’t know how you’ll react to them and may feel very disoriented and befuddled when you arrive. Not an ideal scenario for arriving in a foreign country!
Did My Tips to Avoid Jet Lag Work?
I was quite bleary-eyed and tired when I arrived the next morning, but I was determined in my plan. My first day included a 3 hour train journey from Copenhagen to Aarhus and I knew it would be challenging to stay awake during the ride. I really wanted my tips to avoid jet lag to work! It’s important to get as much exposure to natural light and sunshine and adapt to the new zone right away. Instead of sleeping, I admired the beautiful scenery of waving wheat fields and charming thatched cottages 🙂
This was my plan upon arrival for avoid jet lag:
- stay awake and take in as much natural light as possible
- take 5mg of a natural remedy for jet lag – Melatonin, one hour before bed for the first two nights, and 2.5mg on the third night. (make sure to add this to your packing list!)
- go to bed no earlier than 9pm so as to adapt to the new time zone.
It worked! I was able to avoid jet lag and sleep soundly that first night in Aarhus! It was so exciting to wake up and realize my tips to avoid jet lag had worked. I was in Denmark and didn’t feel rotten from jet lag!
Another common bit of advice in avoiding jet lag is to slowly change the time you go to sleep and when you wake before your trip. Although I’m sure this is a great suggestion, it didn’t make much sense for me. Perhaps it will for you! It may also help to spend time in a quiet spot before your flight to help in quieting your mind. Try a premium lounge on your next trip for a quiet place to relax.
Research suggests that when traveling east, it can take one full day per hour time difference to recover from jet lag. Traveling west is a easier, taking half as much time. Be gentle on yourself when you do suffer from jet lag! Perhaps plan an easier itinerary when you first arrive and save the longer days for when you’re more acclimated to your new time zone.
What are your best tips to avoid jet lag?
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