Taking a plane to a business meeting or a long-time planned vacation is just one of the perks of the modern world. However, although this allows us many great things, it comes with a few setbacks.
Jet lag and difficulty falling asleep comes from changing time zones. When you change time zones for the first time, you probably won’t have such a great time in the first few days.
Well, it’s simple.
Your body has an internal clock that works according to the actual clock and time zone you’re in. When you switch time zones, you actually mess up the order of your internal clock.
For example, your body may tell you that it’s time to go to bed, although it’s actually morning.
This isn’t alarming but can be a bit annoying and tiring. Both your mind and body will need some time to adjust to the new time zone.
The first day in the new time zone is the worst for the body because the schedule it’s used to following no longer works. This can stress your body and make you more tired than ever.
What is Jet Lag?
At this point, you’ve probably heard of jet lag. And although many people have their own explanation as to what jet lag is, it’s nothing more than a sleeping disorder.
It happens when you mess your circadian rhythm, desynchronizing your internal clock from external time.
Jet lag happens when you go from one time zone to another in a short period of time. The body experiences climate changes and lots of other things at once, making it difficult to cope with the change as quickly.
The more time zones you cross, the longer symptoms will stay. They’ll probably be more and more intense as well.
Jet lag is a familiar thing for people who travel frequently. Many people know how to recognize the early stage of jet lag by recognizing the first symptoms.
- Sleeping disturbance, insomnia
- Lethargy and fatigue
- A heavy and aching head
- Confusion and difficulty focusing
- Mild depression
- Loss of appetite
- Dizzy or unsettled feeling
- Gastrointestinal disturbance such as constipation or diarrhea
Loss of appetite, difficulty focusing, and sleep disturbance is the most common symptoms that appear.
Depression and gastrointestinal disturbance problems are very rare, often happening only when you’re changing more than three time zones in three days or less.
Dizzy or unsettled feelings are more likely to happen when you’re changing time zones for the first time in life.
You might feel a headache or a weird feeling of a heavy head. This is something generally stressed people are prone to.
Although these symptoms are rarely dangerous, they can be quite annoying, preventing you from enjoying your vacation.
You can prevent this from happening by trying some of the tips and tricks we’ll share in the text below.
Tips For Coping With Jet Lag
Plan a new schedule before you leave
The best way to prevent jet lag is to plan your trip according to the new time zone.
You can start acting according to the new time zone a few days before your trip. Do this by regulating your bedtime.
The important part is to change your sleeping schedule by east or west. What does this mean?
If you’re traveling east, you need to move your bedtime earlier, but if you’re traveling west, you should go to bed later. This may be tricky the first few days, but it’s much easier to deal with than actual jet lag.
1: Adapt to your new schedule while traveling
Don’t worry if you don’t have the time to get used to a new time zone at home. You can do that when you get on your flight.
Change your watch the very first minute you take your seat in the plane. The “false” time will trick your mind into thinking that that’s the actual time. This gives your body enough time to get used to the change, adjusting your internal clock without interrupting the biorhythm.
This is the quickest way of preventing jet lag from hitting you when you’re traveling for several hours.
Make sure to set your clock as many times as needed, depending on how many zones you’re changing between flights.
2: Stay hydrated
Dehydration is known to cause many different health issues. Drinking water can fix many problems and also stop feeling weary and down while traveling.
Drink plenty of water before, during, and after your trip so that you can balance your biorhythm and cope with changes better.
Remember that this only works when drinking water. Alcohol, tea, and caffeine don’t count.
Alcohol can make you thirstier than ever, which is why you should avoid drinking it while traveling. Coffee may seem like a good solution, but it can also mess up with your sleeping cycle, which doesn’t help jet lag.
3: Arrive early
This is one of the best tricks if you’re flying for business and have to be focused. Plan your trip so that you arrive at least two days before the actual meeting so that your body can adapt to the new time and climate.
If you don’t have a few days to spare, try to arrive at least some five hours before your meeting. Even this is better than arriving right before the meeting when you’re still feeling tired and sleepy.
4: Move around
This trick has a few parts.
Although everybody wants to hit the bed as soon as they arrive at the hotel, you shouldn’t do this. Instead, take some time to stretch your legs when you enter the room.
Move around, unpack, and maybe go out for a walk around the block. Take this time to check out some stores and enjoy the neighborhood.
This way, you signal your body that you’re awake and well instead of tired and sleepy. Just a few minutes of walking or doing some exercises are enough.
5: Consider melatonin
First of all, you’re probably asking what melatonin is. It’s a hormone that helps your body regulate the circadian rhythm (internal clock) for better sleeping.
Lacking melatonin can result in sleeping disorders. So, you may want to consider using some melatonin supplements to stop this from happening when traveling.
Start using the supplement at least two days before your trip if you’re flying for longer than ten hours. Take it for at least two or three days after you arrive at your destination.
This is a secure way of preventing heavy-duty jet lag problems such as depression.
The way you’ll use and dose it depends on many cases. Most people use 3mg of melatonin two hours before bed. This should provide ten hours of sleep while switching time zones.
Although ten hours of sleep may sound like a lot, your body will appreciate it while coping with jet lag. However, you may want to consult with your doctor before using the supplement, especially if you plan on using it for a longer time.
6: Natural light therapy
What is light therapy? What better way to wake up than to let the sun in your room? Everybody needs sunlight, so try not to pull the shades across the windows this time.
Having plenty of light will help you to stay awake until it’s the right time to go to bed. However, too much light exposure isn’t good. You should stay away from direct sunlight because you may end up with headaches and burnt skin.
Taking a walk in the afternoon sun is much better than lying on the beach. Avoid standing still because you may fall asleep before time.
7: Eat good food
Traveling makes us hungry, and we all usually crave bad food.
This makes it rather tricky to eat well when on the road.
If you don’t usually have a balanced diet, we suggest you try to change your habits at least a few days before the trip.
Take two or three days before the flight to eat plenty of protein and carbs. However, you should only eat light food on the day of your flight.
Eat light food for a few days after you arrive as well. Carbs and fat will further disrupt your internal clock, making it difficult to fall asleep.
This kind of food can mess with your sleeping even when you’re not traveling. It makes it that much worse when you’re switching time zones.
8: Take a hot bath before bedtime
This is a great trick for your muscles.
A hot bath helps the muscles to relax quicker, while the drop in body temperature will make you sleepy right away.
It’s a simple trick and an enjoyable one. Use it to prevent insomnia and other sleeping disorders from appearing when you change time zones.
9: Minimize sleeping distractions around you
Adjusting to new sleeping conditions is always tricky, but even more so when you’re traveling. If you’re struggling to fall asleep, you may have to put your phone down and turn the TV off.
Minimize the distractions, so put your phone on silent and use an eye mask. This will allow your brain to relax, thinking that it’s finally time to sleep.
By stimulating the brain this way, you help it push the body to sleep as well.
You can also use earplugs if you’re in a loud environment. If you’re used to sleeping with some background noise, make sure that it’s relaxing instrumental music and not news or reality TV.
10: Consider meditation
You should try meditating if you fly often and struggle to fall asleep when you arrive at your destination. Meditation can also help if you don’t experience any jet lag, simply helping your internal clock to adjust better.
Traveling and coping with new time zones and rhythms can be quite tricky. Meditation helps you relax, making your mind and body more peaceful after hours of hectic traveling.
You don’t have to close your eyes to do this trick. You can spend a few minutes on your hobby or even indulge in some breakfast food.
Breakfast food is known to be good for your body, mind, and mood. So, treat yourself with some pancakes as soon as you land.
Plus, eating instead of going to bed will signal your body that it’s morning and no time to sleep yet.
You may arrive feeling tired and stressed, and your body will inform you that it’s time to sleep. However, this may not be the smartest idea if it’s actually morning where you’ve landed.
The worst thing you can do is sleep when your biorhythm and internal clock aren’t reversed.
If you’re feeling tired – meditate. Take some time to relax, then stretch your muscles, and have some light food.
11: Go for a walk in the sun
If you arrive during the day and there’s plenty of sunlight – you should use it.
Remove all window shades and allow the sun to enter the room.
Vitamin D is your friend when switching time zones. Take a few minutes to go for a walk in the sun, and we assure you that you’ll feel much better.
If you arrived during the night, make sure to take that walk as soon as the sun appears the next day. It will help to restore your energy and adapt your body and mind to a new time zone.
This process is among the most important ones in resetting your internal body clock.
Open your window and stay there for a few minutes. The sun, wind, and life happening in the streets below will definitely help to wake you up and convince you that it’s morning. It’s a great trick if you’re trying not to fall asleep at the wrong time.
If not, you can take your breakfast in the sun. As we said, breakfast foods are ideal for keeping you awake, but even more so when you eat in the sun.
12: Find familiar places
More and more people are now working from different places in the world. These people often travel and fight with jet lag on a regular basis.
You’re probably wondering if there’s a solution. And, luckily, there is.
You’ll probably feel tired and sleepy like everyone else arriving at a new destination. So, the first thing you should do is set a routine.
Routines are a big part of digital nomad life. So, find a good café and make it your morning headquarters. It should be a café that’s similar to the one you spend time at home.
Feeling the familiar setup will reduce the level of stress that can disrupt your sleep.
13: Surround yourself with energetic people
The best way of staying awake if you arrive in the morning is to surround yourself with energetic people. Their energy will help you to feel more awake, bringing your energy to higher levels as well.
If you’re alone on this trip, you can visit some places near your hotel room. Focus on places that won’t make you fall asleep, so avoid art galleries and other similar locations.
Instead, go to an amusement park or a café with upbeat music.
It’s unlikely you can avoid jet lag altogether. It’s your body’s natural response to the change that occurs when going from one time zone to another.
But, even though you can’t avoid it, you can try to reduce the symptoms a bit. This is best done a few days before going on a trip.
Understand the process and why your body behaves the way it does when you switch time zones. Try to relax as much as possible, and don’t go to bed until it’s actually time to sleep.
You’ll probably feel different symptoms every day, but they won’t interrupt your daily life if you try some of the tips we discussed.
Avoid going against your body, eating bad food, and watching horror movies when jet-lagged. This can make you feel even more horrible for quite a few days after you arrive at your destination.
Elderly and people who aren’t in such a good shape will probably struggle more than the rest. It’s because they usually move around less frequently and may even suffer from certain health conditions.
Long-hour flights may not be the best for elderly and sick people. It’s usually too much for them to handle, especially due to time zones.
Changing time zones can be quite dangerous for some people with serious health issues. In this case, consult with your doctor about your trip.
Your doctor will help you when it comes to supplements and other medication you should take. Breathing exercises and relaxing methods can help to adjust to new time zones, but don’t forget to stay hydrated as well.
Stay away from sweets and other bad food, incorporating lots of healthy foods like fruits and veggies. This doesn’t mean you can’t enjoy a glass of wine on your vacation.
You can – just make sure that it’s not the very first day you arrive.
So, pick your destination and plan how you’ll fight jet lag. Focus on small adjustments to help your body adapt to the change.