Jet lag is a necessary evil that those of us who love traveling hate having to deal with. It is caused by the disruption in the body’s natural circadian rhythms from traveling to a different time zone in a rapid period of time. While the effects of jet lag – headache, insomnia, moodiness, GI problems, and more – tend to be more intense traveling from west to east, it seems to last longer when traveling from east to west. Given time, you will be able to get over jet lag eventually – the general consensus is that it takes about a day for every 2 time zones traversed. However, if you want to beat it more quickly, here are some tips and tricks that frequent travelers have found helpful.
Adapt as Quickly as Possible to the New Time Zone
The sooner you can get in sync with your new time zone, the better. Many travelers will even reset their watches to their new time zone days before the trip, eating and sleeping according to the destination time to get a head-start on beating the symptoms. For many others, this isn’t practical, so at the very least try to start adapting to your new time zone once you’ve boarded the flight there. If your flight is leaving while it’s night time at your destination, try to get some sleep on the plane. And once you’ve arrived, resist the urge to take a nap during the day – it’ll prolong the adjustment process.
Drink Plenty of Water
When you travel long distances, dehydration is natural. In fact, you might even be trying to reduce your fluid intake to avoid having to use the restroom on the plane. However, this is a bad idea, as staying hydrated assists your body’s circadian rhythms in adjusting to a time change. Carry an empty water bottle when you pass through security and fill it up in the terminal, or buy a bottle of water from a vendor in the terminal. Being mindful of your water consumption on the journey will go a long way in helping your body beat jet lag later.
Get Some Sunlight
By exposing your body to light at your destination, you help it get re-adjusted to a new day/night cycle. If it’s feasible, try planning some light outdoor activities during your first couple of days at your destination. Even if it’s as straightforward as an hour’s walk in a park, it can really help. For best results, aim for some morning light exposure when travelling east and early evening light exposure when traveling west.
Many travelers swear by melatonin supplements as a way to beat jet lag since the body naturally makes it to trigger sleepiness. Consider taking some at night if your body isn’t ready for sleep. Do note that melatonin isn’t regulated by the FDA, so use caution while using it and ask your doctor any questions you may have about it prior to your trip.
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