Things have been pretty hectic for me lately, which is why I’ve been so bad about blogging and for that I apologize! We’ve had some great trips this month and even more in the next two coming up, but after all Australia and the US and back to Germany, then to London and back to the US in the past couple of weeks I’ve felt myself just getting exhausted from all the travel, planes and time changes. Jet lag is no foreign concept to me, but since I travel quite so frequently I’ve learned to combat jet lag and how to avoid it in the first place.
Let’s be honest, jet lag sucks. If you don’t nip it in the bud straight away you could potentially be messed up for weeks. There’s nothing worse than getting up at 3 a.m. only to fall asleep again that same day before dinner. Combatting jet lag is no easy task, but believe it or not there are lots of ways that you can avoid it altogether or at the very least deal with it straight away!
Jet lag starts on the plane.
One thing that many people don’t consider is that jet lag starts on the plane. While it’s tempting to stay up and watch all the movies you’ve been meaning to catch up on, not allowing yourself to sleep on the plane is a huge mistake. Sleeping on the plane is the best way you can adjust to your new time zone, regardless of where you’re going. Of course, it’s hard to fall asleep if you’re departing at 3 in the afternoon but then arriving into your new time zone early in the morning. But, there are a few ways you can try and make yourself tired enough to sleep.
Get Up Early
If you wake up early on the morning of your flight you’ll be far more likely to sleep once you actually board the plane. Not only is getting up early good for jet lag, but you can even get some more stuff done before you leave so it’s really a win-win.
This is one of the easiest things you can do to prepare for your redeye flight, so as much as you might wake up and think to yourself, “Nope, turning the alarms off,” your best bet is to just suck it up and know that once you board that plane you can pass the heck out.
Immediately Switch To Destination Time After Boarding
As soon as you board the plane, switch your phone, your watch and all of your devices to the time at your destination. There’s nothing worse than being on a plane and arriving at your destination at 9 a.m. to look at your phone and see that it says 2 a.m. It’ll only make you feel tired.
Sleep, eat and adapt your entire flight routine around this new time zone, forgetting entirely where you started your journey.
A Little Wine Never Hurt
If you don’t drink, then good for you! You can always opt for a melatonin or something instead, but if you do, drinking a bit of wine on the plane will help you sleep a bit better because it will make you tired. Besides, a bit of wine with your onboard meal can feel kind of nice!
If you do this though it’s important to make sure you’re still drinking plenty of water because there’s nothing worse than a wine headache when you’re on a plane.
Invest In An Eye Mask
The best way to get sleep on a plane is to just block it all out. Some airlines will provide you with an eye mask on a longer redeye flight, but most don’t so it’s best to bring your own. Although the cabin crew will dim the lights or turn them off entirely during the hours after the meal and shortly before landing, there’s still going to be some light and some distractions.
Using an eye mask will keep away the extra light and help you block out the distractions of people getting up and moving around you. As I mentioned in this post about what I travel with, I never used to use an eye mask and thought I functioned fine, but once I used one I realized you sleep so much better with one.
Watch A Boring Movie
If you have a super long flight like one from the west coast to Australia, you may benefit from trying to stay awake for the beginning of the flight and then sleeping in the second half instead since the flight time is quite so long. However, once it’s time for you to actually fall asleep, if you’re struggling it can sometimes help to put on a boring movie or one you’ve seen before. If you choose one you actually want to watch you’re never going to drift off to sleep.
Most airlines’ inflight entertainment will include some documentaries and you’d be surprised how quickly a 50-minute show about outer space will put you to sleep.
Once you arrive, it’s a whole different battle.
So you’ve tried all of the above things and you arrive – at this point you’re either feeling very rested (or tired depending which time zone you’re going to and from and what time you arrive) or you feel like crap and just are not adapted at all to the time zone you’ve arrived in. If you didn’t succeed in adapting to your new time zone on the plane, don’t fret, there’s still hope for you yet.
We’ll break down your options into what to do if you’re arriving at your destination in the morning or the late afternoon/evening.
If you’re arriving in the morning…
Do. Not. Sleep. I repeat, do not sleep. The temptation is strong, I know, but if you’re arriving in the morning and you go to sleep you’re only going to mess yourself up. If you’re great at taking short power naps then this may benefit you, but for the rest of us going down means we’ll be down for hours and that is the best way to encourage jet lag, not combat it.
Instead, try to keep busy. Go sightseeing, go out with friends, go shopping, go lay down and rest in a park. Do anything that keeps you away from your bed. Honestly, your first night in a new destination it’s ok to go to bed pretty early because your body is worn out from travel so there’s a good chance you’ll still sleep until a decent hour.
Usually, if I can stay awake until 9 p.m. I’m happy. That way, if you wake up at say 6 a.m., you’re already almost fully adjusted and the next day will be a lot easier to stay up until your usual bedtime – for me around 11 p.m.
Also, try to avoid alcohol that first day and evening. Just like how drinking some wine on the plane will help put you to sleep, drinking alcohol is going to only make you more tired. If your goal is to stay awake until an adequate bedtime, alcohol is not the way to do that.
If you arrive in the evening…
Arriving in the evening may be one of the better two for time changes because you don’t have to stay awake for too long. However, you may have the opposite problem. Now you can’t sleep early enough. Both forms of jet lag can mess you up for days, so what are you to do when you arrive at your destination but come bedtime aren’t even remotely tired?
Take a bath. Baths are generally pretty calming and relaxing, but also the drop in body temperature once you get out will usually make you pretty sleepy so it can be a great tool to help get yourself to sleep that first night.
Try to avoid screens, whether it’s your iPad, phone or TV, because the blue and white light given off by these items makes it harder for your body to release melatonin, which is what makes you tired. Instead, try to read a book or the newspaper or even do a crossword. Any of these activities will help you wind down and help make you a bit sleepy.
If all else fails, just like on the plane a glass of wine or cocktail can help you sleep if you’re really struggling. Usually after a glass of wine I’m ready for bed, so if I really can’t fall asleep then one glass of that will knock me right out.
Combatting jet lag is possible.
Jet lag is a hard beast to get a handle on, but with some careful preparation and a good plan and schedule, you will be able to deal with it straight away and be on the right schedule starting day two. When you don’t feel burdened by jet lag, you’ll be able to enjoy your trips to fullest and that’s all we can hope for.
If you have any additional tips on how you personally combat jet lag I’d love to hear about them!