Trust me, I’ve had my fair share of jet lag. My partner is from South Africa so I’ve spent the last 10 plus years going there to visit his family. I live in Vancouver, Canada. That’s a bit of a distance. Just a tad.
Try a 22-30 hour trip (depending on layovers) and a 9 or 10 hour time difference (depending on the time of year).
So here’s what I do to beat jet lag – as much as possible anyway. My body REALLY likes sleep, regular, uninterrupted sleep, dark sleep, so whenever I change it up my body hates me for a bit. But I do what I can, otherwise it’s WAY worse.
1. Make sure you’re hydrated to begin with.
On the day of is obvious, what’s not so obvious is that you should be drinking lots of water the day BEFORE you leave. If you’re dehydrated to begin with you’re fighting an uphill battle. Don’t screw yourself over before you even start.
2. Get onto your new time zone as soon as you can.
That means while you’re flying there, or even start taking naps a few days prior (during the time when you should be sleeping).
While you’re en route, set your watch/phone to the time of your destination. The sooner you can get your mindset around eating, sleeping, and being a functioning human being during that place’s daytime, the better.
On the plane, stay awake as long as you can when you should be awake, and sleep when you should be sleeping (according to your destination’s time). I usually watch movies for as long as possible when I need to be awake. Obviously it’s tough to sleep when you need to be sleeping but you’re not tired so…
3. Pack accessories to help you sleep when you’re supposed to.
Get a good eye mask. A really comfy, cushiony, DARK mask. Make sure it doesn’t allow any light in. And close your window shutter while you’re at it.
Have a blanket on hand. You want to get as cozy as possible, so make sure you have something to keep you warm – especially your feet, planes can be so cold on the floor! Take it from a person who’s always cold.
Buy ear plugs. Even if it doesn’t seem noisy on the plane (which it likely will be because most people don’t try to adjust to the time while travelling), the sound of the plane is extremely loud, so block out what you can.
Download some super relaxing music or meditations. That way if you can’t sleep, throw those on to help you zen, and maybe make you sleepy.
4. Drink LOTS and LOTS of water.
This is especially crucial while you’re on the plane. You get waaaay more dehydrated on planes than on land, and dehydration is a killer for jet lag. I always fill up my water bottle before going on the plane, and then ask a flight attendant to fill it up later instead of a measly cup of water (better for the environment too). I do this SEVERAL times on a long flight. The attendant may look at you funny, but ignore them, it’s important.
5. Avoid alcohol (and caffeine, if you can).
I’m sure you hate me for this one but they’ll just dehydrate you and make you feel worse. Avoid, avoid, avoid! Yes, even the free drinks.
6. During layovers, walk a lot (unless it’s when you should be sleeping, then try to rest).
And stretch! Movement is good, it’ll keep the blood moving, and keep you awake when you need to be. We tend to stiffen up a LOT more while flying, so it’s even more important to keep moving.
If your layover is at a time when you should be sleeping then that gets a bit tricky, but there are rooms you can book to sleep in if you really want, or try to get some quick shut eye while lounging in the airport. Or at least close your eyes and meditate. Those meditation apps will come in handy here.
7. During flights, move (again).
For the obvious reasons mentioned above (tenfold because of the air quality on a plane).
8. Once you land, get outside in the sunlight.
Even if it’s cloudy, get outside. UV is stronger than you think, and really, REALLY helps. There’s nothing worse than being jet lagged and staying in a dark room. Your body will go berserk.
9. Exercise (again, preferably outside).
Even when you feel sluggish. Actually, ESPECIALLY when you feel sluggish. When it’s the middle of the afternoon and you feel like you’re about to collapse from exhaustion, instead get outside and go for a brisk walk. It’ll definitely help you.
10. Try to stay up until it’s time for bed (or nearly, at least!)
Do whatever you can to stay awake until it’s the natural bed time in your new location. If you end up going to bed the first night or two at 730 or 8pm that’s alright, just do what you can.
11. Drink more water.
Seriously. Just keep chugging.
Good luck! And if you still find yourself waking up crazy early (you will), then make the most of it and catch the sunrise!
Have any other tips? Share them with us!