You know the feeling. You open your eyes, wide awake and rested after a night of sleep, but instead of seeing the morning light streaming through the window, you see the time: 3 a.m.
No matter what you do, you can’t get back to sleep. You know that it’s bedtime, but for some reason your body hasn’t gotten the memo.
What’s going on?
You guessed it: jet lag.
Also known as “desynchronosis” or “travel fatigue,” jet lag occurs when your circadian rhythm — the internal clock that tells you when it’s time to sleep and wake up — gets disrupted. This often occurs during and after travel that crosses one or more time zones.
In the period between leaving the time zone that your body is used to and adjusting to the time zone that you have traveled to, it is common to experience symptoms of jet lag, including:
- Waking up too early or being unable to fall asleep
- Interrupted sleep
- Headaches and/or dizziness
- Mental fog and/or disorientation
- Difficulty concentrating
- Moodiness and irritability
- Nausea and/or vomiting
Needless to say, being jet lagged can not only ruin your trip, it can make it difficult to re-adjust to your routine at home, too.
Luckily, we understand that you need to get rid of jet lag fast.
We gathered all the best tips for not only recovering from jet lag, but preventing it from happening in the first place. Follow our step-by-step guide to beat jet lag before it even appears.
Have you ever heard the saying, the best offense is a great defense?
This applies to travel fatigue too. There are several things you can do to start fighting jet lag before you even arrive at the airport. By making minor adjustments to your routine in the days leading up to your trip, you can prep your body to accept a new time zone more easily.
1. Book the perfect flight
We know — usually the cheapest flights are the least ideal. Anyone who has traveled on a budget knows that if you want to save money, you’re likely going to have to put up with inconvenient timing and layovers that leave you even more exhausted.
However, if you are willing to spend a little more, book a flight that arrives either in the morning (for those who can sleep soundly on planes) or at night (for those who want to get some rest as soon as they arrive at the destination). By naturally aligning your actions with the local time, you will have a head start on adjusting to a new time zone and getting the most out of your trip.
2. Act like you’re already on vacation
In terms of your sleep schedule, that is. By going to bed a little earlier or a little later each night (depending on the time zone you are traveling to), you can start training your body to run on a new internal clock.
If you like to plan ahead, you can start weeks in advance by adjusting your bedtime by only 10 minutes per day. For last-minute trips, offsetting by an hour every day works too.
Don’t worry if you can’t transition completely to the new routine — even small changes go a long way.
3. Hydrate (and avoid dehydration)
One of the main contributors to jet lag symptoms like tiredness, head pain and moodiness is also one of the easiest to prevent: dehydration!
The Mayo Clinic recommends that the average adult male consume about 15.5 cups (3.7 liters) of fluid per day, while the average woman should aim for 11.5 cups (2.7 liters). This is especially true if you’re planning to spend multiple hours in the dry, stale air of a pressurized airplane cabin.
To avoid the most common effects of jet lag, drinking and even eating plenty of hydrating fluids and foods is vital — before, during and after your flight.
Start cutting out dehydrating fluids about a week before departure to prime yourself for optimal hydration during your trip. Drinks like coffee and alcohol affect your circadian rhythm and will undo any work you’ve done in adjusting your sleep schedule. Instead, reach for these extra-hydrating substitutes:
- Water (adding fruits like lemon, lime and cucumber is even better!)
- Fat-free or skim milk
- Coconut water
- Sports drinks
- Caffeine-free tea
With about 20% of the average person’s daily fluid intake coming from food, make sure that your meals are helping to hydrate you too! Here are some healthy choices:
Traveling might appear glamorous, but anyone who’s been stuck on a plane for several hours knows the truth…
It can take a huge toll on your body, and even ruin your trip.
However, by following these easy guidelines, you can make a long flight productive or restful (or both!) and arrive at your destination full of energy and ready to go!
1. Choose the window seat
The only thing worse than jet lag is being jet lagged while suffering from a vacation or post-vacation bug.
But, did you know that some places in an airplane contain more bacteria per square inch than your home toilet seat?
That’s not even the worst part…
The bathroom actually falls pretty low on the list when it comes to germs.
According to TravelMath, a 2015 study found that the grimiest place on an airplane is the one that’s closest to you — the tray table. In fact, it contains a whopping 2,155 cfu (colony forming units) of bacteria per square inch.
The tray table that unfolds right in front of you — the one that you rest your food or cell phone or even yourself on — is home to nearly seventeen times the amount of bacteria that can be found on your personal toilet seat.
As if that isn’t horrifying enough, the air vent just above your head contains about 285 cfu/sq in of bacteria – more bacteria per square inch than the toilet flush button, which contains 265 cfu/sq in.
And the seatbelt buckle? Which passengers must touch at least twice during a flight?
It typically has about 230 cfu/sq in.
So before you even take a seat, take the extra minute to wipe down your seating area. Bring along hand sanitizer or wipes that won’t leave you feeling sticky, and use liberally throughout your flight.
Another easy trick?
Choose the window seat.
The study showed that window seats were actually slightly more sanitary than other seats, as sitting farther away from the aisle makes you less susceptible to airborne germs passed along by other passengers.
Taking vitamin supplements and bringing along mouthwash are other ways of going the extra mile to ensure that you stay healthy throughout your trip!
2. Make a long flight work for you
When you land at your destination, what time will it be? What would you normally be doing at that time? And how can you adjust your in-flight activities to best help yourself when you land?
Asking yourself these questions will tell you what you need to do on your flight to most easily adjust to the local time when you land.
Don’t know what time it is in your destination? Here’s an easy trick:
Set your watch or phone time to whatever time zone you will be landing in, then go one step further…
Act like you are already in that time zone.
For example, if it is dinner time wherever you’re landing, have a meal or a snack. If it is 4 a.m. there, try to fall asleep (you can even set an alarm to wake yourself up in the “morning.”) If it’s daytime in your destination, keep yourself awake by doing work, reading, or watching TV until a normal bedtime hour in the new time zone.
Acting like you are in the new time zone as soon as you set foot on the plane will take advantage of flight time by allowing your body to get a head start on syncing with a new routine — which means less time spent adjusting when you land!
3. Finally fall asleep on the plane — even if you’ve never been able to before
We all wish we could be like that person who falls asleep as soon as they put on their neck pillow.
Unfortunately, for most of us that isn’t the reality.
In fact, many people find it next to impossible to snooze on a plane – forget about logging enough hours of deep sleep to be well-rested when the plane lands.
Luckily for those who have trouble relaxing during a flight, there are plenty of ways to ease the process.
Our favorite is InstaSleep Mint Melts. InstaSleep combines three natural active ingredients — melatonin, GABA and 5-HTP — in a gentle, drug-free and non-habit-forming sleep aid that acts fast to help you achieve great rest. With a delicious taste and convenient melt-in-mouth tablet form — no water needed — it is an enjoyable way to finally catch some zzz’s on an airplane, even for the most restless fliers. The best part? It won’t leave you feeling groggy and disoriented when you wake up. Get your pack here.
If sleep aids don’t appeal to you, there are other ways to trick your body into thinking it’s bedtime…
Make a music playlist of quiet songs to help you relax into sleep. Start conditioning your body to wind down when it hears the music by falling asleep to your playlist every night for a few weeks prior to the trip. By the time you hit the play button on the plane, you’ll already be nodding off.
Treating yourself to a comfortable neck pillow, eye mask and noise-canceling earbuds is another easy way to create the illusion of privacy on a busy flight. Even the noisiest cabin can become your own quiet place of rest.
4. Keep your energy up
Hydrating and snacking during the flight are crucial ways to keep up your energy and avoid becoming jet lagged.
Dry, stale cabin air is nobody’s friend, so make sure you are regularly drinking water whenever you’re not sleeping. Bring or buy a few snacks on the plane to revitalize yourself if you feel your energy getting low.
5. Move around
Although being forced to sit back and relax for several hours sounds restful, we all know that spending too much time on a plane is usually just the opposite.
Sitting in your seat for too long can actually drain your energy, so if you plan to be awake during your flight, make sure you get up and stretch or take short walks frequently. Getting your blood flowing will help to re-energize you.
So, you’ve finally arrived at your destination! Whether you’re feeling a little tired from traveling or you’re ready to explore, there are a few more things you can do to ensure you get the most out of your trip… sans jet lag.
1. Stick to local time
Even if you didn’t have the chance to adjust your body to the local time zone before leaving, it is crucial that you do this when you’re actually at your destination.
No matter how good it would feel to rest after hours of travel, resisting the urge to sleep until nighttime on the day you arrive is a make-or-break point in avoiding jet lag. It is essential that you match your routine to your goal routine in local time.
Want to adjust to the time zone fast?
Try the Uplift app. Uplift teaches users how to utilize pressure points on their bodies to essentially reset their internal clocks and “end jet lag naturally.” Less than 10 minutes of Uplift has helped numerous users all around the world conquer jet lag and make the most of their trips.
Then, to fully settle into your new routine…
Unpack, take a walk, go out to dinner or explore the area. It may seem counterintuitive, but moving around will actually help wake you up and take your mind off of the tiredness. The bonus is that you get to maximize your waking hours in the destination — a win-win!
2. Be strategic about your sleep
Let’s be honest — we’re all human, and no one is invincible to feeling tired. Even if you’ve done everything right in preparing your body for the trip, it’s completely normal to feel exhausted for a few days after arriving in a new place.
Sometimes, if you’re still feeling drained on the second or third day, the smartest thing to do is take a nap.
A few companies in popular destinations are already revolutionizing the concept of staying well-rested on-the-go. Nap York, based in — you guessed it — New York City, is a quiet haven where one can rent a private space to rest and recharge.
However, if you do nap, you have to be strategic — otherwise, you may wake up feeling worse than before.
So what does a “strategic nap” look like?
If you want a quick, energy-boosting power nap, limit your sleep to between 10 and 20 minutes. Your body will have enough time to refresh itself without entering deeper sleep — which, when interrupted, is what leaves you feeling groggy and disoriented — a sensation known as “sleep inertia.”
If you have more time, shoot for a 90-120 minute nap. This will give you optimal rest, as it is the length of a full sleep cycle; in other words, your body will have time to start and finish a cycle of REM or “rapid eye movement” sleep characterized by deeper rest and dreams.
Waking up in the middle of a sleep cycle is what causes the sleep inertia “hangover” that leaves you with lingering feelings of tiredness and confusion. This is why you should avoid taking 30 minute naps. Half an hour of sleeping interrupts your sleep cycle and actually leaves you feeling worse.
In many ways, recovering from the return trip is actually harder than adjusting to the first trip.
This time, you only have your normal, daily routine to look forward to.
The combination of built-up tiredness, inadequate time to adjust to the new place, and taking yet another flight — not to mention battling post-travel blues — can leave even the most savvy fliers feeling a little depressed.
But don’t fear — we have more tips to help you transition smoothly back into your daily life, with minimal effects of jet lag or post-travel blues!
1. Give yourself time to recover
If possible, try to fly back home on a Friday or Saturday — or any day that gives you an extra 24 hours (or more) of rest.
Traveling will likely take some toll on your body, so giving yourself a day or two to get back into a normal routine will do wonders for your health and productivity. Besides, who wants to go back to work the day after a long flight?
Use the extra time to unwind and focus on recovering (with the following tips!) so you can pick up right where you left off — fresh, energized and ready to go. Your body, family and coworkers will thank you!
2. Pick up where you left off
Post-travel-blues aside, the sooner you fall back into your regular schedule, the healthier you will feel.
Make an effort to re-align yourself with your time zone by following your normal routine. For example, if you always eat dinner at 7 p.m., try to do that on the first day you get back. Similarly, make an effort to go to bed and wake up at an hour that is normal for you. It may not be easy at first, but in no time you’ll be right back to your regular routine.
This goes for your diet as well. It’s likely that the food you ate, or even the time you ate at, varied a little depending on your destination. If the cuisine was very different, your stomach might reject the sudden switch. Ease back into your regular diet with healthy foods (fruits, veggies, proteins) and plenty of water.
More importantly, make sure you listen to your body. Even if a certain type or amount of food is normal for you at home, it might take time to re-adjust to your regular eating habits. Be kind to yourself.
3. Channel the post-travel blues into something better
So, on the surface you’ve settled back into your daily routine…
But there’s still something missing.
If you find yourself suffering from the post-travel blues — those feelings of sadness, restlessness and/or boredom that hit after a fun trip — a few simple changes to your lifestyle might help…
Try channeling your feelings into a new activity or creation. Missing all the hikes or morning dips in the ocean that you enjoyed on vacation? Manifest those activities in your daily life with a new fitness routine at the gym or the pool. Wishing you could relive all the fun memories from your trip? Print out your favorite pictures and frame them, or make a collage or scrapbook.
A new creative outlet might just help you settle back into a regular lifestyle…
Until the next trip, that is! Planning your next vacation in advance is a great way to quickly get over the post-travel blues by giving yourself another adventure to look forward to. (Bonus: planning early means you’ll be the first to find the best prices on flights and accommodations. Score!)