Jet lag is the feeling that you get when your body clock (or circadian rhythm) is not sychronised with the day night cycles of our current environment. Put simply, jet lag is when you travel across time zones and feel utterly exhausted at the end of your trip. Symptoms of jet lag can include headaches, lethargy, irritability and reduced cognitive function.
This article is extra special because we have collated the best tips for beating jet lag from some of the world’s top lifestyle bloggers. The people who have written these jet lag busting tips include travel writers, health gurus and more. Each author has plenty of experience with the pain of jet lag and has figured out ways to overcome it. Below, they share their tips with us, and with you.
Having traveled back and forth around the globe from Korea to the United States yearly for the past decade, I can say the biggest tip for getting over jet lag is to feel that sun on your face. Getting that internal clock back on track is easier after enjoying an hour of sunlight in the morning and sleeping in a room that allows natural light to enter. To be clear, it’s not necessary to get light on your skin, it’s all about getting that light into the retinas of the eyes. So, get up, get out and follow the daylight when you can.
One of my biggest secrets for avoiding jet lag is not watching movies but instead listening to relaxing music with the Bose noise canceling headphones. It seriously does wonders for not being jet lagged when you arrive because the intense rumbling noise that the plane makes while at 30,000ft is actually very tiring for the brain. If it is eliminated, then there is one less thing to make you jet lagged upon arrival. What I normally do is load my iPod with chillout music that is easy to drift into sleep while listening to, then I put my seat back, close my eyes and relax (or sleep). The difference is truly night and day when compared to other long-haul trips where I just watched movies using the crappy headphones provided by the airline. One thing to note is that these headphones are quite pricey, and there are cheaper alternatives but the Bose ones are totally worth the price in my experience.
To overcome jetlag, I try to get into a normal sleep routine on the day that I arrive home. This means going to bed at a time that I normally would when I’m home.
I try to book a flight that arrives home early evening so that I don’t need to wait very long before I go to bed. This is helpful if you are travelling with kids, because it’s difficult to make kids stay awake.
I make myself stay awake until bedtime – this is tough if you get home in the morning, but it’s worth doing to help your body clock return to normal.
I have a few things that I do to help with jet lag. Avoiding airplane food is the best one and it works every time! Airplane food is really bad for you. It’s processed food full of salt, sugars and preservatives that are not good for your body whether you’re flying or not. Plus the food is full of carbohydrates, which after consuming turn into sugar. This is not a nutritious meal! Instead, try to eat something light and fresh if possible. There are many restaurants at the airport that sell fresh salads, fruits, yogurt etc. Just walk around the airport and you’ll see there are many options for yummy meals on the go!
Jet lag can be really tough if you don’t plan for it in advance. Fortunately, there are many things that can really help to beat the awful feeling that jet lag can leave you with. For me, I never take a trip without leaving an extra day at the end for recovery. That extra recovery day after a trip makes a huge difference to how I feel! When planning for the extra recovery day, I try to do very minimal work and focus more on resting and leisurely unpacking. The best thing I have found for relaxing on this recovery day is a massage. A massage can be wonderful for the soreness that can result from long flights. A massage is also great for calming and easing back into regular life.
Jet lag is so much worse if you can’t sleep on your flight. When travelling long haul with kids, this can be even more difficult as it’s no longer just about you being able to get comfortable – it’s about getting your kids to rest (or keeping them entertained) so you can take the opportunity to get some sleep.
Think carefully what things will help your kids relax on the flight. Puzzle books, sticker books, colouring and iPads can all provide entertainment. Taking their pyjamas and toothbrush will help them understand that it’s time for bed. You can get foot pillows that turn their seat into a bed (just be sure to check your airlines allows them first). Plan out the journey and how you want to use the time – if you are travelling long haul, it’s unlikely they will want to sleep all the time so think about what you’ll do to entertain them in between. If you can help them rest during the flight, then you will get some too and this will help all of you recover from the jet lag much faster.
My best tips for beating jet lag are to avoid caffeine, avoid alcohol and avoid overeating on flights.
Caffeine is a stimulant and will affect your ability to sleep on your flight resulting in you being more tired once you reach your destination. Caffeine also causes dehydration which once again will worsen your jet lag. I make sure I avoid all coffee and caffeine-heavy drinks such as cola and energy drinks while flying.
Alcohol also causes dehydration and increases tiredness. This magnifies the effects of jet lag. Tempting as a couple of alcoholic beverages may be on a flight I avoid all alcohol on flights to minimise my jet lag. The best drink on flights for beating jet lag is plain water.
Overeating can lead to digestion problems and a restless night. This will once again magnify jet lag. To beat jet lag I make sure I eat light meals only on flights. I’ve found this to reduce my tiredness upon arrival at my destination.
Before a recent trip from the UK to California, we got super organised and adjusted our kids’ bedtimes in the 10 days leading up to the trip.
We didn’t make huge changes, just moved the time they went to bed by about half an hour every couple of days to get them closer to being 8 hours behind UK time once we were in the USA.
It kind of worked – we were all awake from around 4am local time for our first few nights in California. I think it would have been a lot worse if we hadn’t done anything at all!
The absolute best way to prevent or cure jet leg is to stay hydrated. Flying dehydrates, so drinking plenty of fluids is essential. You can lose almost an entire litre of water on just a five hour flight, so it’s no wonder that so many people end up feeling awful once they arrive at their destination. To combat this, drink water, and/or liquids that provide electrolytes. Avoid sugary drinks like soda, fruit juices, and even sugary sports drinks. Sugar actually pulls water out of your digestive tract and can make the problem much worse. If your body is depleted of electrolytes, sugar-free sports drinks work well for restoring strength and energy. Most of the time plain water will do the trick. Just increase your intake before, during, and after your flight. Experts recommend a cup of water for every hour you’re in the air. I also typically drink several glasses of water before a flight and then drink a bottle of sugar-free sports drink once I exit the plane. Any jet leg I feel upon landing instantly starts to dissipate after drinking just one bottle of fluids back on the ground. It works every time!
Traveling is fun! Everyone looks forward to a holiday. However, when we get there or return home, there’s unpacking, cleaning, etc to be done. Then there’s the jet lag. Here is a sequence that I’ve found effective in helping me bounce back from long flights:
1. If you can, put things (luggage, laundry, etc) away quickly. The clearer your space is, the sooner and better you can relax.
2. Draw yourself a warm, relaxing bath. Place some Epsom salts in the bath. It contains a form of magnesium that is known to help relax muscles and joints. Additionally, it will act as an exfoliant and help detoxify. It’s like you came home to your own spa treatment! You will no doubt be able to sit, relax or even fall asleep as soon as the bath is done.
3. You can choose to mix lavender oil in the bath water or use it on your pillow when you go to bed.
4. This routine will be more effective if done at the same time each night. Thereby helping you get back to your circadian rhythm in your own time zone.
We always aim to arrive at our destination in the afternoon if we are travelling through time zones. This means we have time to check into our accommodation while it is still daylight, familiarise ourselves with the local area and take a walk outdoors for some fresh air.
If you are travelling with children, like we usually do, you will appreciate that chance to stretch your legs and give them an opportunity to work off some of their energy from having to sit still for so long. It is during this time we find a nearby supermarket to stock up on supplies, or a restaurant for dinner, before heading back to our accommodation to settle in for the night.
Having to only push through a couple of hours until your head hits the pillow makes a massive difference with time zone and sleep pattern adjustments. We find that by arriving in the afternoon, we can usually adjust straight away and start the day fresh in the morning. This is far more effective for jet lag prevention than being dead on your feet all day and fighting sleep.
One of my favorite ways to beat jet lag is called grounding or earthing. It is when you take off your shoes for a while, even just a few minutes, and actually go barefoot. This could be on the grass, sand or dirt. There are many benefits to grounding, and one I love it for is overcoming jet lag.
As soon as you arrive at your destination, especially if it’s not bedtime, go outside and ground. Try to find a little patch of grass or dirt and just put your bare feet on it. The free electrons in the ground are great for helping to reset your biological clock and natural rhythm.
As soon as you get back home, do the same thing. It helps to set your clock both ways!
Our bodies are incredibly smart machines! They pick up on subtle hints and clues throughout our days to help us run efficiently. One of those is our hunger cues, which is why if you are traveling, you should start eating at the times of the new time zone as soon as you can!
Especially when traveling internationally, it can be tough to want to eat dinner at what feels like breakfast or to eat lunch at what feels like the middle of the night.
Even if you can’t stomach a whole meal at the new times, it’s beneficial to try to eat a snack or something light, just to give your body more cues.
However, the sooner you do this, the quicker your body is going to pick up on the new schedule, helping you to beat jet lag in no time.
Please note: This article is not to be used as medical advice. Please consult a medical professional before using any sleep treatments. This post may contain affiliate links.