Jet Lag Remedies That Actually Work
We all know the feeling: You’ve flown halfway across the world and landed in an exciting new city, only to find yourself hopelessly jet lagged, trudging through your dream destination like a zombie. And while it’s not enough to stop us from traveling to far-flung destinations, jet lag can definitely get in the way of the experiences we work so hard to plan.
The bad news? There’s no easy fix yet. But there are a few scientifically-proven jet lag remedies that can help you combat the fatigue and general unrest jet lag causes. We’ve gathered suggestions from doctors and health professionals with the research to back them up. Read on, take notes, and utilize these tips on your next international or cross-country trip, so you can skip the unplanned naps and spend more time on the ground.
Adapt to your New Time Zone before you depart.
“For every time zone change, it takes on average one day to adapt,” says Dr. Steven Brass, a California-based neurologist who specializes in sleep medicine. “Consider adapting your schedule to the destination several days before departure. It can be challenging, but if you know you’ll be three hours ahead, start three days before.” That means slightly shifting the time you go to bed, the time you wake up, and meal time, if possible.
Add the time zone for your new destination to your phone’s clock so you can start living by it. (This also helps with keeping track of time in-flight.) Then, you can hit the ground already adjusted—or at least, more adjusted than you’d be otherwise—and spend less of the precious time you have to travel struggling to get on a new schedule. This is especially important on shorter international trips, Dr. Brass says, when you might have fewer days in your destination than needed to fully adjust.
Bring your reusable water bottle along and hydrate constantly. “Flying and traveling overall dehydrate you, and when you are dehydrated you become cranky, tired, irritable, and hungrier,” says Amy Shapiro, a dietitian and the founder of Real Nutrition. “These are all symptoms of jet lag, and they become even more pronounced when you’re dehydrated. Drinking water before you travel, during travel, and when you arrive will also help you feel more energetic, sleep better, and eat less, all of which are things that assist with getting on the right time zone.”
Move around in-Flight
Getting on the right time zone might require you to sleep in-flight—but you should still incorporate movement during waking hours as much as you can. “Stay active on your flight,” says Bianca Vesco, a New York City-based personal trainer. “The less you move, the less blood flow is going to happen, which will make you feel lethargic when you land.”
Vesco suggests travelers do simple seated or standing stretches before boarding, and incorporate head and shoulder rolls in-flight. “Think about the smaller joints you can move around without disrupting the people around you, like your neck, wrists, and ankles,” says Vesco. “If you have room to do some seated twists, that’s an added bonus, but even with a little movement you’re going to feel better than the sedentary person next to you.”
Use different strategies when you travel east versus west
As a rule of thumb, it is much easier to travel west than it is to travel east, largely because it’s easier to go to bed when you’re tired than it is to force yourself to go to bed early.
But either way, you can hack it. “If you’re going east, across fewer than six time zones, you want to expose yourself to morning light at the destination,” says Dr. Brass. “On those trips, if you arrive at night, don’t expose yourself to bright light in the evening. When you’re going west, across fewer than six time zones, you want afternoon light exposure—which means you hang out outside, as much as possible.” Natural light is the best for this, so get up, get out, and soak up as much sun as you can (and wear sunscreen while you’re at it).
Hit the gym when you land
In case you were going to bypass the hotel gym, consider stopping in—or, even better, going for a run in your new neighborhood. “Though exercise itself doesn’t help jet lag, it does help improve sleep quality and provides energy, two things that suffer when you’re jet lagged,” Shapiro says. “Plus, mimicking your same routine from at home helps overall, so if you exercise at 8 a.m. at home, try to exercise at 8 a.m. at your new location.”
Opting for an outdoor workout, when you can, means you can benefit from natural light and see more of the city.
While many of us plan travel around once-in-a-lifetime meals, Dr. Rebecca Robbins, a sleep researcher and member of the Dagsmejan Scientific Advisory Board, says that strategizing your indulgences will enable better sleep. “It’s tempting to indulge in heavy dinners, but attempt to have a hearty breakfast and lunch, and make dinner a lighter meal. That will aid in digesting, allowing you to slip into the covers and not toss and turn while your body is digesting.”
And if you absolutely can’t hold back on that tasting menu in the evening? Try to eat on the earlier side (which will certainly make it easier to snag a reservation) or factor in time to go for a walk before crawling into bed.