Travel Hacks For Staying Ahead Of Jet Lag
What better way to start a vacation than to wander out of the airport disoriented and bleary-eyed, Googling "how do you say four shots of espresso in Spanish"? Silently cursing the local government for their failure to invest in napping pods, you may realize that the only sightseeing you’re interested in is of a really nice bed.
Fortunately, there’s a better way to travel. With some forethought, you can save hours or even days that you would have otherwise spent fantasizing about your Regal mattress at home. Keep a few of these tricks up your sleeve next time you encounter a drastic time zone shift.
Jet lag happens because the body’s circadian rhythm is not well-adapted to travelling long distances at high speeds. The symptoms of jet lag – tiredness, irritability, and poor coordination, to name a few – typically kick in when you cross two or more time zones, throwing your body’s carefully calibrated sleep/wake cycle out of whack.
The first line of defence is to prepare your circadian rhythm as best you can for your new time zone. If you know where you’re going a few weeks in advance, try to shift your schedule backwards or forwards an hour per week. You won’t be able to fully adjust to large time differences, but even a few hours will help.
If possible, try to plan your flight so that you arrive in the daytime. It’s far easier to power through a day than to try to fall asleep at a time when you’d normally be waking up. Regardless, as soon as you depart for the airport, set your watch to the time at your vacation spot and pretend like you’re already there.
Unfortunately, long-haul flights tend to serve meals and adjust the light based on the time zone in the place you depart. If it’s dark at your destination during your flight, an eye mask, a set of earplugs, and healthy snacks packed in your carry-on make a world of difference. Speaking of the airplane trolly, try to avoid alcohol, and make sure to drink plenty of non-alcoholic beverages. Dehydration is like kindling for travel fatigue.
If it’s daytime at your destination and you’re trying to stay awake on the flight, get up and move around the cabin as often as you can. If you’re lucky enough to arrive in the daylight hours, make sure to spend some time in the sun, since your circadian rhythm is sensitive to light. A bit of exercise will help as well, but don’t overdo it at the risk of exhausting yourself further. Save the city walking tour for the following day.
Try to go to bed at a normal time for your new locale, and when you do, create an environment that’s conducive to sleep, if your accommodations allow. A cool, dark room will go a long way in helping your body readjust. Hopefully, the place in which you’re staying is equipped with a decent mattress, but as any traveller will tell you, you can’t control all the variables.