Jumping between time zones has its perks—seeing new places, experiencing different cultures, meeting new people—but it also has one extreme downside, and if you’re a frequent traveler you probably know it all too well: jet lag.
You’ve just touched down in London and it’s a beautiful sunny morning, but you can’t enjoy it. The sun stings your eyes and all you want to do is crawl into your hotel bed and sleep awhile—because it’s 4AM back home. But guess what? The situation isn’t hopeless. There are a lot of ways to rewind your body clock and adjust to the time change in a smooth and painless fashion, so you can get the most out of your trip. If you take advantage of these quick and dirty tips, you’ll spend less time in bed, groggy and out of sorts and more time making eyes at Big Ben.
Adjust your schedule before you leave.
According to Lifehacker, most people have a harder time traveling east than west, “When you travel east-to-west, your body clock needs to be delayed so you wake up and go to bed later. This is a lot easier for us to adjust to than advancing our body clock when we travel west-to-east.”
If you attempt to advance or delay your body clock gradually during the weeks before your trip, you will make the adjustment faster when you arrive and overall easier on your body, reducing the effects of jet lag.
Drinks lots of water.
One loses more water flying at altitude than on land, so it is always important to stay hydrated while on an airplane no matter what—but especially if you are looking to beat jet lag. Get-Fit Guy
, Ben Greenfield, suggests drinking close to 12-16 ounces of water each hour while flying in order to diminish the physical effects of jet lag.
Take cold showers.
This is another recommendation from Ben Greenfield. He explains on his blog he’s actually been known to go into the airline lounge during a long layover for a 10-15 minute cold shower. If this isn’t a possibility he suggests a cold shower as soon as your arrive at your hotel. Cold showers expand blood vessels, which dramatically helps fight jet lag.
Perhaps skip the movie and cocktail during your flight.
This might be a tough one, but if you’re looking to fall asleep on the plane and feel refreshed when you arrive at your destination—it might be best to skip out on these amenities. While you might find they help you fall asleep more easily, Dr. Lisa Medalie, behavioral sleep medicine specialist at University of Chicago Medicine, explained to Forbes
that these habits could actually just contribute to your feeling groggy upon arrival.
“We suggest turning off cell phones, iPads, and laptops one hour before your desired plane nap time,” explains Medalie. How come? Apparently the blue-spectrum light they emit is very activating and can delay sleep. And the alcohol? “An in-flight cocktail may make it easier to fall asleep,” says Medalie, “but can lead to more fragmented sleep and is likely to leave you feeling groggy upon waking.”
Try melatonin instead.
According to Lifehacker
, one study
has found that a dose of 5mg of melatonin (the chemical your brain releases to make you sleepy) in the early evening helped participants to adjust to new time zones faster. Keep in mind, however, that while melatonin is available over the counter, it’s not FDA approved and isn’t for everyone. Perhaps worth a conversation with your doctor!
When in doubt, stick to what you know.
No one knows your body like you do, and not everything works as well for everyone. In fact, sometimes you’re better off not adjusting at all. This is especially true for shorter trips. Jim Waterhouse, a professor of biological rhythms at Liverpool John Moores University often recommends staying on the same schedule
you had at home rather than trying to adjust to local time if you’re not spending more than three days at your destination (considering you don’t have enough time to adjust anyway). But in the end, do what works for you.