Anyone who flies through multiple time zones has to grapple with the circadian rhythm disorder–what the heck am I talking about? Well Circadian Rhythm Disorder is better known as Jet Lag. This is your body’s natural clock basically going haywire. It doesn’t know where you are, what time it is or when it should be sleeping. And this can really mess around with the enjoyment of your vacation or business trip. Nothing is more miserable to me than being tired. And as someone who doesn’t usually need caffeine or have problems sleeping, Jet Lag makes me nuts!
The truth is that you can’t really completely avoid jet lag, but by following these tips you can minimize the symptoms so you won’t feel like as much of a zombie. And hey, that’s something, right? So here are my top tips to help you avoid jet lag on your next vacation.
Leave home well rested.
As tempting as it may be, I suggest you skip the all night Bon Voyage party and get a good night’s sleep before you leave. As fun as the party seems, I promise it won’t be funny in the morning when your rubbing tired eyes and starting your trip off on the wrong foot. So have an early dinner and get in bed even if you’re not tired. Keep your television off and force yourself to relax. Even if you don’t fall asleep right away, you’re still resting, which will go a long way.
I find that Gradually shifting my bedtime to match that of my destination helpful–even if just by a couple hours. Every little bit helps! I start this a few days before I leave. Each night I adjust it by an hour or two if possible. This makes a big difference when I reach my destination because I find that it helps me avoid those pesky 4am wakeups where your body is telling you you shouldn’t be asleep.
Use the Flight to Rest.
Even if you’re not one of the lucky few who can sleep soundly on a flight, take the flight to unplug and unwind. Enjoy a good book or In-flight movie. If you’re able to squeeze in a few hours of sleep that’s a bonus. But how often can you not be reached by work or family/friends? Enjoy the time that you can unwind with your thoughts or that book you’ve been meaning to get to.
I personally arm myself with a few sleeping aids to help kickstart my new schedule and get on my destination’s time but of course, speak to your doctor about this since I am clearly unqualified to give medical advice–no matter how many hours I’ve spent on Web MD. Some people recommend taking melatonin pills but I’ve never done this.
There are also a few things you can do to make your sleep more solid. If you can afford it, obviously business or first class is preferable–but everyone must do what they can afford. Being able to lay down flat makes a huge difference though–and having an actual blanket and freshly baked chocolate chip cookies really do it for me!
If you’re stuck though in economy, to avoid interruption, choose a window seat so once you fall asleep you won’t be disturbed. You can also use the wall to rest your head against, which I find really makes it easier to sleep.
As much as I hate to admit it, you should also avoid drinking too much on the plane as it can lead to a fragmented sleep. A little nip never hurt anyone of course, but don’t get carried away with the free booze on international flights. Passing out is not the same as going to sleep.
I also suggest getting comfy. This always makes it easier to sleep. Stay hydrated and dress warm–as these optimal sleep conditions. Bring warm socks and a pillow. Stay hydrated but this of course walks the line because you don’t want to get up every hour to use the bathroom.
Once You Arrive
When you arrive, stay awake until an early local bedtime. When you arrive in your destination, especially if it’s daytime take a walk and get some sunshine on your skin. Staying in the light will help your body transition to local time.
Though I am clearly not a doctor and can’t speak for everyone, but I highly recommend taking a sleep aid for the first couple nights to ensure you stay asleep for a reasonable amount of time. This way I’m not completely handicapped by exhaustion and can stay awake until a reasonable hour. Sleep aids of course can have side effects, and if misused, can be habit-forming; consult with your doctor, and read and follow the directions carefully.
Tricks Up Your Sleeve?
Do you have any other tricks to avoid jet lag when traveling? I’d love to hear them! Let me know in the comments!
Katie is a luxury lifestyle expert. She runs luxury lifestyle sites, Travelingpanties.com and Smartypanties.com. But she's not only a luxury lifestyle blogger, she's also a freelance writer and has been featured on The Huffington Post, Fodor's, Forbes, Pursuitist, Just Luxe and She Knows. She's also a professional photographer and her photos often appear alongside her writing. She's a founding member of the Luxury Travel Blog.