Around here, we all love to travel. New places, cultures, food, and… time zones. Jet lag literally comes with the territory. You might wonder how much of that London fog is all in your head. There are however, a few tricks to making your adjustment time a little more timely. We have compiled the best tips for coping with jet lag courtesy of our travel experts (including international extraordinaire, Ken, who is on the road up to 45 weeks a year). Read on, fly frequently, and land ready to explore!
“Stay hydrated. Most planes are very dry considering how they are pressurized. Drink as much water as you can.” -Ken
All of our travel experts recommend keeping your water levels topped off. You probably know you should drink water or a low sugar fluid once on board. If you really want to hit the ground running, start making sure you are well hydrated a day or two in advance. This is especially helpful for people who suffer from swelling or bloating (I feel your pain!) on longer flights. Steer clear of high salt and sugar and load up on hydrating foods and fluids before you even print your boarding pass.
“Limit alcohol.” Also, courtesy of our on board expert, Ken.
Yes, there might be free drinks on international flights, but getting your money’s worth is a catch 22. “…only have 1 glass of wine on long haul flights ... 8 hours or more.” According to Ken. That free beer might only be 5% alcohol, but the other 95% of your beverage doesn’t count as hydration. Let’s nerd out for second… Alcohol decreases production of ADH in the pituitary gland. ADH is an anti-diuretic hormone that triggers the body to reabsorb water. With less ADH in your bloodstream, your body will lose more fluid than it absorbs because of frequent visits to the loo. Worse, the inability to absorb as much fluid as you’re losing can affect you for several hours… compounding dehydration and making it hard to compensate for. Whew! Our tip? Enjoy your one glass of wine slowly and follow it up with a glass of water and a nap.
You should prioritize sleep according to our travel experts. Meals are usually served towards the beginning of international flights, and time after that should be dedicated to getting some shut eye. Ear plugs, like the Matador Travel Earplug Kit, and an eye mask can improve the quality of your sleep. Dressing in layers can also help, since plane temperatures can vary quite a bit and you want to be comfortable. Timing of sleep is as important as the amount of sleep. Our expert Brian suggests using a fitness tracker on the adaptive alarm setting- which avoids waking you up during your REM (deep sleep) cycle. This is especially helpful for getting back on track once you land. Waking up a few minutes earlier in the right part of your sleep cycle can go a long way towards making you feel rested. Another way to help get situated in a new time zone (and for when you return from one) is to try a natural remedy like over the counter melatonin before bed.
Use your coffee addiction to your advantage.
If you drink coffee or other caffeinated beverages most mornings, I have good news for you! You can use your caffeine crush as a way to adapt to a new time zone. The day before your flight, switch to decaf. If you land at your destination before 1PM, scoop up a cup of coffee right upon landing. If you land later in the day, push through the rest of the afternoon and start off tomorrow with a strong cup. After the day off, the caffeine should ignite your morning routine and help you adjust to the new time zone faster. Bonus… you get to enjoy a little local caffeine culture.
Pick your flight wisely.
If you’re flying a long distance, minimize your connections. If you have a layover, opt for a flight combination where the longest leg of the journey is the first flight. That way, you can settle down and get some sleep right at the start. Another super insider tip, pick your plane! Ken suggests to “fly the new ‘Dreamliner’ 787 if you can .... it is made of a lighter alloy and therefore can be pressurized at a lower altitude, which allows for more humidity.” You might be surprised how much it helps. Additional legroom is another thing to consider, depending on cost and how much space you need to be comfortable- it might be worth it.
Head west my friend.
Based on where you live and where you are headed, you might select a destination that makes it easiest to adjust when you arrive. If you have already picked a destination, it can be helpful to know what to expect. “For me, east coast to west coast time changes are the most brutal,” Brian informed us. Heading east bound, especially just a couple of hours in time difference, can make it feel like you getting up really early, and often during your REM cycle. Whereas flying west, you might wake up earlier than usual but should just get up and go with it if you don’t have enough time to sleep through an entire additional sleep cycle. The general consensus is that you naturally adapt about 1 hour every day. So, if you are flying from LA to New York for example, it will take about 3 days for you to feel normal after a 3 hour time zone difference. If the time difference exceeds 3 hours, just jump in and set your alarm.
Should you adapt at all?
If you are going to be on the ground in your destination for fewer than 24 hours, it might be worth avoiding to acclimate. So, consider your time frame when you are preparing to adjust to a new time zone. Sometimes you can be better off just keeping on your home schedule.