There’s nothing worse then arriving at your foreign destination only to crash and burn for the first day or two because of jet lag, especially if you only have a few days to enjoy the experience. So here are some tips to help minimize the effects of jet lag and get your body adjusted to the new time zone.
Sleep On The Flight
One of the best things you can do to adjust to a new time zone is to sleep during the flight and ‘wake up’ when you arrive at your destination. Scheduling your flight to arrive in the morning can help trick your body to think it had a long night while on the flight.
Admittedly you’ll be a little groggy around midday and you’ll be fighting to keep your head up in the afternoon, but if you can stick it out and go to bed at a normal hour you’ll wake the next morning energized and ready to go. Plan a few light activities your first day to help keep yourself awake without exhausting yourself.
Embrace The New Time Zone
A lot of travelers I’ve met have claimed the best way to adjust to a new time zone is to acclimatize themselves to it for a few days before the trip. They’ll start to go to bed a few hours earlier or later than they normally would until they’re falling asleep according to the time zone they’re traveling to. They’ll adjust their meal times, morning routines, and any other daily activity until they live and breathe the new time zone.
For casual travelers looking to escape the daily grind with a vacation this probably won’t be very feasible. But those relocating for a few weeks or someone looking to move to a new area for a while might find this useful, especially if your job has flexible hours. You could talk to your boss and arrange to work afternoon or grave shift for a while as an example, while your coworkers are waking up with coffee and donuts you could be having leftover Chinese for ‘lunch’. Get creative.
Leave Your Home Time At Home
Spending your entire vacation thinking about what time it actually is back home is going to make jet lag a lot worse. Instead of spending breakfast thinking about how your neighbor is getting ready for bed, stay focused on the present.
Besides, you’re in a brand new area with a variety of things to do and enjoy, why would you spend any of it thinking about home?
Stress has a way of feeding jet lag and making the symptoms worse. If the last 12-24 hours were filled with stress, chaos, and anxiety then the first thing your body will want to do, regardless of the time, is sleep.
Plan ahead and prepare; have your bags packed two days before you leave, print out bus routes and hotel addresses, arrange for shuttle/taxi pickups, anything you can think of to mitigate problems and minimize stress.
Pharmaceuticals And Caffeine
I’m extremely hesitant to recommend utilizing pharmaceuticals or caffeine in order to minimize jet lag, but for some this can be a great way to reset your body and get on track the moment you step off the plane.
Ambien or Melatonin can be great ways to get your body to sleep when it is not accustomed to and get the rest you need while on the plane or after your first day abroad. Energy drinks, coffee, energy shots or caffeine can also give your body that boost it needs to keep going during your first day when your body is demanding sleep.
Like I said before I am very hesitant to recommend these options, but I do acknowledge that other travelers swear by them and use them often. Just be careful with what you take and how much of it you use and only use it when you absolutely need to. Many of these substances and products can be very damaging to your health if used incorrectly and many are habit forming if not addicting. Try some of the other options mentioned above and use these as a last resort.
In the end it’s important to realize that jet lag is inevitability. Your body has been trained to run on a 24-hour schedule and a dramatic time zone change from a flight will cause it confusion.
But with the above methods you can help minimize the effects of jet lag and get more out of your first day abroad.
Author: Benjamin Baker
After serving abroad in a religious capacity for two years Ben has felt the pull to travel and explore ever since. This desire was further fueled by his wife Maddie and the two have traveled to many places over the last few years. Ben’s hope is that by sharing his knowledge and experiences obtained while traveling that others can improve their lives and the lives of others through travel. Check out additional articles written by Benjamin.