We all know this feeling of being utterly tired, drowsy, and fatigued. Jet lag can kill the excitement of a new travel destination. This article collected tips on what you can do to beat jet lag.

😵‍💫 What is jet lag?

Jet Lag is a sleeping disorder "characterized by a resynchronization between the endogenous circadian system and the external environment as a result of trans-meridian travel" (Zalai, Gladanac, Shapiro. In: Selsick, 2018, p. 202). Jet lag occurs when crossing time zones, meaning when flying west or east. It is easier to travel clockwise, in the western direction, as then the day extends slightly and travelers can adjust easier. Temporary symptoms are insomnia, fatigue, and drowsiness.

Not everyone experiences jet lag, and for those who suffer from jet lag, it is felt very individual. Mostly, jet lag kicks in when traveling across two or more time zones as it disrupts the natural body's circadian rhythm, says Dr. Alon Afidan of UCLA's Sleep Disorders Center (Avidan. In: Bender, 2014).

🥱 How to beat jet lag?

  • Start adjustments before traveling: Do not sleep in the plane or try to sleep in the plane when it is daytime at your destination. Instead, use the plane to relax, work, read, or listen to audiobooks and podcasts. It is useful to put yourself in the time zone of your final destination. Dr. Lisa Medalie from the University of Chicago Medicine. She adds that it is advisable to adjust already at the current destination and shift the night sleep slowly towards the future travel destination (Medalie. In: Bender, 2014). A useful app that helps you with the calculations is Timeshifter.
  • Choose business class or first class seats: Well, this tip is only doable for some of us as business class and first-class seats come with a much higher price tag. However, if you collect miles and you want to use them for an upgrade, you can consider using the miles for a flight that takes you east or for a flight that travels across more than two time zones.
  • Exit row seat: This is very individual. It can help some to have extra legroom and therefore having the exit row seat can be an advantage. I prefer the standard seat as I can sleep while putting my knees up. Of course, sleeping squeezed within two seats and cutting off the bloodstream from your legs for hours might not be the best idea though.
  • Avoid choosing a back seat: Whenever a plane experiences bumps, the back of the plane moves more than the front of the plane. Therefore, choose seats closer to the nose of the plane. Additionally, some rows don't allow the passenger to recline the seat due to back walls, lavatories, or galleys. Check out the website SeatGuru for your optimal seat.
  • Avoid blue light before your sleep time: If you want to sleep on the plane, it is advisable to not watch a film as the blue light will just do the opposite of what you want to achieve. Dr. Avidan says the blue spectrum light is stimulating the circadian clock that controls our circadian rhythm" (Avidan. In: Bender, 2014).
  • Avoid sleeping aid for short-term flights: It can be useful to take sleeping aid for 10-hour or longer flights but sleeping aid for short-term flights can increase the jet lag once you are in your final travel destination, for example when you take sleeping aid for a mid-term flight of 5 hours and you arrive in your final destination in the morning.
  • Avoid drinking coffee before traveling: This depends on the time of your flight, the time you spend on the plane, and the time of the final travel destination. If it is evening in your final travel destination, do not drink coffee before traveling as you want to adjust your body to the final destination time.
  • Travel gadgets: It can be useful to invest in really nice earplugs, an eye mask, and a neck pillow. I found wax-cotton earplugs way better as you can adjust them better to your ear size.
  • Stretch during the flight: Muscles can get stiff and tired during a long flight. Get up from time to time and walk around, stretch your shoulders, neck, back, and hamstrings a little bit to help your body to keep the blood circulating and loosen the muscles.
  • Ditch the booze: Although it is included in the ticket price, having alcohol on board, a beer or wine, can have a negative impact on your sleep. Instead, drink loads of water before traveling and stay hydrated on the plane as well.
  • Avoid tight work schedules: When traveling across time zones, it is a good idea to reduce work time for the next few days. It is super stressful to arrive at a new destination and have a deadline or an important video call on the same day.
  • Continue with the day according to your destination's time: When arriving in the morning at your final travel destination, don't take a nap or go to bed because it is nighttime in your departure destination. Instead, follow the time of the day in your destination and go to bed accordingly.

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💌 Sharing is caring

I know, this sounds like an outdated phrase but if you find value in this article, please share it with someone you know who suffers from jet lag. The sources I linked in this article might give some insights, and if this article can help someone reduce jet lag, this article fulfilled its purpose.