Avoiding jet lag when you’re flying coast-to-coast or around the world is definitely possible if you know how to do it. A survey by Conde Naste said that 93% of travelers get jet lag and even 96% of flight attendants get it as well. Jet lag is no fun as it can affect your ability to enjoy your vacation if you get sidelined by the extreme tiredness that often accompanies adjusting to long flights across many time zones.
My first true experience with jet lag occurred on my first trip overseas to Cuba and after that experience, I vowed to learn the secrets of avoiding jet lag. I had a red eye flight from Manchester to Santa Maria and arrived at my hotel around 4pm. I was so extremely tired when I checked in to my hotel that I wanted to take a very long nap. That would of been exactly the wrong thing for me to do, as it lengthens the time taken to adjust to your current time zone. I’ve since learned a lot of tips for avoiding jet lag and no longer have my trips sidelined by it.
First, you need to know that traveling across different time zones is the number one cause of jet lag. It happens most frequently by going from the west to the east, but you can get jet lag by traveling east to west also. Second, I have learned that a huge reason for experiencing jet lag, at least for me, is purely psychological but that does not mean there are not physiological reasons impacting the feeling of jet lag as well.
Here are some tips that I’ve collected and applied over the years that seem to work very well. I have used these on numerious flights around the world and for me jet lag has been busted.
1. Get little or no sleep the night before you travel. Believe it or not, this is a great tip for avoiding jet lag. I usually have so much to do the night before I take a long flight, that I stay up very late the night before my trip taking care of last minute details such as packing my suitcases and taking care of lots of odds and ends. This activity has actually served me very well as I then find it very easy to fall asleep on the plane and arrive at my destination ready to take in the sights. By sleeping on the plane, it helps me to quickly adjust to the new time zone that I’m traveling to and it’s very helpful for avoiding jet lag.
2. Take a Sleeper or Melatonin to help you sleep on the plane. I find that if I have a little help with a sleep aid to induce a nice relaxing sleep, I get the rest and sleep I need while I’m on a flight and this is very helpful for avoiding jet lag. For me, that means just ONE sleeping tablet, or about 15mg of Melatonin (with one-to-two 5HTPs) but you should use it responsibly. Melatonin cannot be purchased over the counter in the UK but it can be purchased from online suppliers or general stores in the USA. I will sometimes take Melatonin throughout my holiday to help reduce the effects of jet lag as it helps me adjust my sleep pattern for the new time zone.
Before you rely on sleeping aids or Melatonin for a trip, you really need to take them for a “test spin” before your flight to determine if they are effective for you or not. I initially tried these sleep aids on a Friday night when I knew I could sleep in or relax on a Saturday if they made me too tired after taking them. This is VERY important to do this. I only want to get a good night’s sleep. I do not want to feel groggy for an entire day so that’s why you personally have to determine how your body will respond to this suggestion. I’m also personally not a fan of the prescription sleep medications so I can’t comment on using them for this purpose.
3. Do NOT drink alcohol or caffeine when you fly. Drinking alcohol, coffee and caffeinated sodas during your flight will dehydrate you and contribute to your feeling of jet lag – so just don’t drink these beverages on your travel day. I know that sounds harsh but you certainly don’t want to drink alcohol (including wine and beer) if you’re taking any aids. Now, if you must have a cup of coffee, then wait and have your brew in the morning right before you’re arriving at your destination when the flight attendants are serving breakfast. Save the drinking for fun spots, swim up bars, pubs and dining out when you get to your vacation destination. If you don’t follow this travel tip for avoiding jet lag, then you will really pay for it on your holiday.
4. Do drink plenty of water. It is very important that you drink plenty of water when you fly as dehydration will contribute to your physical feelings of jet lag. Some airlines try to keep passengers hydrated on long flights by coming around with water, but they don’t usually do a very good job of coming around enough and that’s why I always make sure I have at least one-to-two liters of water with me. I also ask for extra water when the flight attendants come around offering drinks. Drinking plenty of water while I’m on a coast-to-coast or international flight greatly contributes to avoiding jet lag.
5. As you travel, slowly start setting your watch ahead to the correct time zone at your holiday destination. This is the single most important tip to avoiding jet lag. You should slowly start setting your watch ahead an hour or two during your flight to the correct time at your destination. Make sure that you have your watch set for your destination’s time zone several hours before you actually arrive as you will be psychologically set to jump right into the new time zone. I’ve used this tip for avoiding jet lag for over twenty years and it works wonders at alleviating jet lag for me whether I’m traveling coast-to-coast or flying half-way around the world. In my opinion, most jet lag is purely psychological and getting your mind fixed on the new time zone is one of the easiest things to do to avoid jet lag.
6. If you arrive at your holiday destination in the morning or afternoon, do NOT go bed when you arrive at your hotel. I made this mistake only once and learned my lesson quickly. Drop your suitcases at your hotel and then go out and explore your destination for the day. Take a double-decker bus tour and get a quick orientation to your city or lay on the beach for the day. Have an early dinner and then go to bed early your first night at your holiday destination. You’ll sleep a very good sleep and be quickly adjusted to the new time zone by morning.
Finally, make sure that you get up and move around while on a long flight because sitting in a cramped position for hours at a time only adds to the misery of getting jet lag and could also have some very serious (even deadly) implications. Get some exercise while you are on your flight. You can twist and stretch out to keep your muscles relaxed or walk up and down the cabin if possible every once in a while. This can keep your feet from swelling up.
Now I don’t know if these tips will work for you, but I can tell you that they’ve worked for me for years and I have yet to experience jet lag at my holiday destination since implementing these tips for avoiding jet lag. Just remember, you don’t need to let jet lag ruin your business trip or holiday. If you use these tips suggested here for avoiding jet lag, you will enjoy your trip!