Jet lag is a pretty awful thing and almost all of us have experienced it at some point in time with travel. There is nothing worse than finally getting to your destination after several hours of travel and then feeling the dreaded symptoms of jet lag. Symptoms of jet lag can include irritability, nausea, dizziness, fatigue, headache, depression, as well as many other unpleasant effects. Jet lag happens when your body switches abruptly to a different time zone, completely throwing off your internal clock causing the above symptoms.
Below lists the best ways to treat and prevent jet lag:
1. Synchronize your watch to the new time zone
One of the very first things you should do once you take your seat on the plane is to change your watch to the time zone you are traveling to. This will get you into a mindset of the new time and you won't be constantly reminded of how your time zone has altered when you check your watch.
2. Go to bed and wake up with the new time zone
Try as best as you can to wake up and go to sleep in line with your new time zone, this will help to prevent you from waking up way to early or way too late, and help you to get a better sleep so that you will have good energy for your trip. Note that if you will be in the new time zone for only a couple of nights, it might actually be better to stick to your regular bed time and wake time if possible.
Exercise is one of the best ways to beat off the symptoms of jet lag. It doesn't even have to be a long workout, just getting your heart rate up for a few minutes can shake off those jet lag symptoms to increase energy and mental alertness.
4. Eat with new time zone
This goes along with getting adjusted to the new time zone. Try to eat at the same time you did with your original time zone to keep you energy up and to prevent hunger and irritability.
5. Avoid alcohol on your flight
Alcohol can make jet lag worse according to the World Health Association. The only drink you should have on the plan is water to keep you hydrated.
6. Drink water
Flying can lead to dehydration because the air is much drier in the airplane causing you to lose fluids. Make it a game and drink as many cups or bottles of water that you can on the plane. Yes, this does mean you will have to get up to use the restroom, but that's a good thing! You should be getting up at least once an hour on flights to prevent blood pooling in the lower legs which can lead to swelling, pain, and even a blood clot.
7. Consider a power nap
A short nap, 25-30 minutes can be very helpful for situations where you haven't slept and you get to your destination in the morning and you have a full day ahead of you at your destination. A power nap must be kept short to prevent you from getting into deep stages of sleep, because if you wake up during deep stages of sleep this will make you feel groggy and sleeping too much might make it harder to fall asleep later.
8. Eat healthy
When you are tired and cranky the last thing you might be thinking about is eating healthy. Avoid carbohydrates and sugar when you are traveling because these foods are only going to make you feel more sluggish and tired, as well as cause your blood sugar to go high and then dip low leading to more irritability. Instead stick to vegetables (which will also help to keep you hydrated due to their high water content), healthy fats, and protein.
9. Consider taking melatonin
Melatonin is a hormone that helps to regulate your internal clock. Melatonin is the hormone that helps to make you feel tired at night time, and is also the hormone that tells your body it is time to wake up in the morning. Try taking melatonin 30 minutes before you want to go to sleep to help boost your natural melatonin and help you get to sleep even when you might be feeling wired from the travel day. Read more the benefits of taking melatonin for jet lag here from the Mayo Clinic.
Main take aways...
The best thing you can do is make yourself follow the new time zone as if nothing has changed. The worst thing you can do is think to yourself, "It's 9 am here but really it's only 5am for me" - no no no, you can't think this way, it will only make you feel more lethargic and blah. The above recommendations are for travel greater than 3 days, if you are only traveling for a day or two then it is probably a better idea to try and stick to your original time zone if possible.
Board Certified Nurse Practitioner in California. Blogging about health, fitness and mindfulness.