September 19, 2022 4 min read
JET LAG: Everyone’s least favorite part of international travel. There’s nothing that puts a damper on the excitement of a big overseas trip like jet lag. Between the torturous days struggling to keep your eyes open and the infuriating nights spent wide awake with a growling stomach and a racing brain, jet lag can really scramble the first few days in a new place. When all you want to do is explore and enjoy your new surroundings: getting over jet lag as quickly as possible is key.
Here are our top tips for combating jet lag:
In the days leading up to your big trip and continuing on into when you arrive, make an extra effort to hydrate. Drinking plenty of water will help your body to adjust to the different climate and time zones more efficiently. Not to mention how much a long plane ride can dry you out. If you’re going somewhere hot or humid, we suggest packing some extra electrolytes like these Hydration Drink Tabs from GU. The more you sweat the quicker you get dehydrated.
Before you even embark on your trip, you can start preparing for the adjustment. In the week leading up to international travel: take it extra easy. Banking some extra hours of sleep now will help sustain you through a long travel day and into the beginning of your vacation when you are the MOST tired. So go to bed early! Sleep in late! Indulge and take it easy. Pre-game your vacation with extra zzz’s.
If you want to take your time zone adjustment game to the next level: you can even start adjusting your sleep schedule ahead of time to match the time zone of your destination. Gradually pushing your bedtime back later (or moving it up earlier) depending on where you are going will help to make the transition easier when you actually arrive.
Research suggests that sleep cycles in animals & humans are closely related to food and access to it. When food is plentiful, the body’s clock mirrors that of the dark/light cycle. However, when food becomes scarce, a food centric sleep cycle takes effect (think bears hibernating in winter). Using this knowledge you can transition the sleep cycle of your body to a new time zone using fasting. 16 hours without food is enough time to trigger the switchover to a food based clock. Timing the end of the 16 hours is key to making the circadian switch: you should break your fast with breakfast at your destination (literally “break””fast”), since the meal signals to your body that it’s time to eat and your day has begun. Read more about the 16 hour fast and the research behind it here.
Noise and light regulation will help you to adjust to the new light/dark cycles. Spend your days getting as much sunlight as possible and at night use the aids of eye mask and earplugs to keep you asleep longer.
Creating some consistency and comfort in your sleep environment will help to get you relaxed and hopefully sleeping more quickly in a new place. Having slept on a myriad of horrible pillows on a handful of international trips we know first hand how much of a difference a good travel pillow can make. The HEST Pillow is a must pack item on any international trip, especially on the airplane. Read more about traveling with a HEST Pillow here.
If you’re up in the middle of the night unable to fall back asleep, we suggest resisting the temptation to look at your phone or turn on the light. While it can be maddening to lay there in the dark while you’re WIDE awake, giving in to the temptation to “get up” will hinder your transition to the new timezone. Stay in bed. Keep the lights off. Focus on your breath. Count sheep. Meditate. Whatever you gotta do, do it… just don’t get up!
Sometimes an extra aid helps! If you respond well to Melatonin or another sleep aid, pack some. Same goes for daytime caffeine (plus it’s a great excuse to indulge in the local café culture). Just make sure to hydrate if you’re drinking coffee.
When you’re deliriously tired during the day and ALL you want to do is nap: RESIST RESIST RESIST. Drink an espresso, slap yourself across the cheek, jump up and down… whatever it takes to stay awake, DO IT. Letting yourself slip into a nap will confuse your body even more, and in the first few days in a new time zone sticking to the local time is key to adjusting quickly.
For more tips on traveling and sleeping better in all kinds of climates and situations, check out our How To Blogs.