For many of us, jet lag is a necessary evil, especially for those of us who pile up the frequent flyer miles. There is perhaps nothing more anti-climactic than landing in a beautiful location for the first time and needing a catnap. Well weary traveler, there is good news, many studies show that jet lag can be overcome more gracefully with some very simple adjustments to your regular travel routine.
Drink lots of water on the flight
First and foremost the air inside airplanes is usually quite dry. When you feel the sensation of being thirsty you are actually dehydrated. The thirst sensation is your body’s way of getting you to drink because you have gone too long without water. It is recommended that you drink at least one cup of water per hour on your flight to stay in line with the daily recommended 8 cups of water a day. Once you land continue that pattern for the next couple of days.
Get your Z’s on this end
While it may be difficult with an early morning flight, getting 6-8 hours prior to flying is a must. Lack of sleep magnifies jet lag and makes it harder to get back on your regular schedule. Many doctors recommend preparing your body for sleep by taking a melatonin supplement 12 hours before you are due to wake up. At about the 9-hour mark, it is suggested that you climb into bed and read a good book or listen to some relaxing music. These activities tell your body it is time to shut down and as a rule, the body will respond. Do not watch television to fall asleep. The light from the television is a stimulant that actually tells your brain to stay active and stay alert. Earplugs and eye masks also help you stay asleep especially if you are not generally in bed early as they block out stimulants that can wake you in the middle of a good solid 8-hour rest.
Meditation is fast becoming a highly accepted general health improvement tool. Studies have shown that 10 minutes of meditation can be more effective than a 20 minute power nap. If you haven’t meditated before it is really very simple. Get into a comfortable seated position on a couch or the floor. You can put on some soft music if you like and set a timer for 10 – 15 minutes. There are plenty of apps that have this function. Don’t worry if your mind wanders; let it. The point to meditation is to remain still and “present” to allow your brain to relax. This will actually give you the sensation of a well-deserved nap.
Arrive during the day
Sunlight inhibits melatonin creation and stimulates your body to stay awake. So if you can plan to arrive in the morning it is highly recommended that you do. You will also be tempted to want to explore your surroundings which will keep you active and stimulated.
Eat, but not a big meal
Studies show that eating (and specifically digestion) tells your body it is time to get up and start the furnace. A large meal will make you tired, while a snack or a light healthy meal will let your body know it is time to perform. The digestion process will actually prevent you from being tired if you eat a lighter meal during and right after the flight.
Go to the bathroom on the flight
This one is actually more so that you can remain active on your flight. But if you’re drinking enough water this one won’t be a problem either. Get up every 30 min or so and walk to the bathroom. Once in the bathroom do a little stretching (after all no one can see you). Repeat this every 30 minutes until you land. All this activity keeps you active in addition to having to watch the time for the next 30 min mark. Blood flow to the extremities due to physical activity (no matter the exertion level) allows your body to keep the blood flowing to the limbs and the brain thereby delivering oxygen; a key component to staving off the effects of jet lag.
Exercise in the hotel
Once you’ve checked in, hit the hotel gym, pool or running track for 15 – 20 minutes. Physical activity is the best wake up pill there is; ten times more effective than coffee! Again, if your body is moving and the blood is pumping, it’s like an all-inclusive vacation for your body.
Talk to strangers
Whether you strike up a conversation on the plane or with your cab driver on the way to the hotel, many scientists say that conversation; and specifically ones that interest you inhibits, the part of the brain that keeps track of time. You’ve had that experience where you talk to an interesting person on the flight and 3 hours flew by? Pun aside, this type of human interaction and connection is highly effective in keeping you alert and stimulated.
Ready to go? Reach out to one of our travel experience specialists and we’ll get you on your way!