Many of us who have crossed oceans, countries and time zones have all been there: that fuzzy-headed feeling where our bodies are not quite sure where they are, they’re just moving on auto-pilot. Or that feeling when you get so tired so quickly, and keeping your eyes open seems like the most difficult thing of your entire life.
Welcome to jet leg.
I would like to say that as a seasoned traveler and part-time road warrior, I never suffer from jet lag, but we all know that would be a lie. I’ve yet to meet the person who does not get jet lagged in some shape or form. I think we all get it, but some deal with it better than others.
The older I get, the harder I’ve found it to deal with jet lag.
In recent years, it’s felt like jet lag and I have battled more times than I care to admit. Sometimes jet lag wins and sometimes I do (I think...). The older I get, the harder I’ve found it to deal with jet lag, but I’ve discovered ways to both quickly adapt to time zones when traveling and recover upon my return. Here are a few tips on how to handle jet leg:
1. Choose your flights wisely
I like to have a flight strategy depending on where I’m going. When it’s to Europe, I always go with a red-eye for multiple reasons, the main one being that I’d rather sleep on the plane and then get going as soon as I land versus spending daytime hours in the air. I try to do the same for flights to Asia. My favorite flight is one that leaves Newark at 1:30 am and lands in Hong Kong around 6 am local time. I just have to make sure I get a lot of sleep on that 15.5-hour flight, and I’m good to go when I land!
2. Hit the ground running and avoid daytime napping
On a related note, I always try to be active as soon as I land in a place, especially if it’s the morning or middle of the day. Yes, I’m tired because sleeping on the plane is not particularly quality sleep, but I try to power through and stimulate myself, and I avoid taking any naps whatsoever. I almost never take naps in general because it messes up my sleep pattern, but I definitely try to avoid them when traveling because a nap generally turns into me sleeping seven hours, waking up in the middle of the night local time and wondering what to do now.
3. Manage your eating schedule
Just as it’s important to control your sleep pattern when traveling, it’s also important to keep your eating schedule from going completely out of wack. This can definitely be hard particularly when coming off of a long flight where you’ve been fed multiple times and your body is not sure what meal you should even be eating, but I try to adjust my eating to a reasonably normal schedule as soon as I land. Of course it doesn’t always work if/when I wake up at 4 am and I’m hungry, but whenever that happens I try to only have a small snack and it helps.
4. Use a sleep aid
I know a lot of people who use some sort of sleep aid when traveling, for multiple reasons. I stick with the lighter stuff, but to each their own. Usually when I travel, I have some melatonin on me, which is a hormone often used to adjust your body’s internal clock. I also travel with Benedryl, partly in case I need it for allergies and partly because it can also help with sleep (not for regular use, though). I’ve also seen medications specific to jet lag, but I’m wary of a lot of different medications so I can’t speak to those.
5. Take advantage of your odd hours
I have to admit, I secretly love the hours I sleep after returning from overseas (Europe in particular). I feel like I sleep the hours one should be sleeping. During this time, I go to bed around 9-9:30 pm and wake up at 5 am. And I usually do one of a few things - take an early workout class, read, get some work done or just relax until I need to start moving. This only lasts about a week before I’m back to my usual (not as great) sleeping habits, but I take full advantage when I can.
What are your tips for dealing with jet lag?