Flying off to faraway destinations can be exhilarating, but battling your internal clock in a different time zone can throw a wrench into travel plans. How to emerge out from under the wet blanket known as jetlag? Here are several techniques which have proven effective during my trips to Europe and Asia...
- Pack for Sleep. When in a new time zone, there are many variables in a new sleep environment hindering restfulness. For me, packing for sleep means bringing an eye mask to block out light, a super wide and soft scarf to keep myself warm, sleep socks for foot comfort, and "soft to sleep in" earplugs to insulate my ears from distracting noises. For my dear friend, this means bringing her favorite pillowcase. Pack anything which will help you settle in comfortably for some shut eye.
- Time Shift on the Plane. Flights across different time zones offer an opportune time to time shift in transit. I create a mini-schedule for myself factoring in changing time zones and switch over to the new destination time zone midway during the flight for eating and sleeping. I just set a vibrating alarm on my phone to schedule activities during the flight, including naps, according to these plans. While some suggest taking medication to aid sleep, I find this often doesn't really help with jetlag unless you're arriving in the morning at your destination (even then, I often feel groggy from the medication). Planning when you snack and sleep in accordance to the desired time zone while in flight can make a big difference once you arrive.
- Don't be Afraid of Naps. So you've arrived and have done your best to transition time zones on the plane, but you're still exhausted and it's morning at your destination. What do you do? Some say fight through the tired and go about your day as usual. But being keenly aware of the dangers of falling asleep on public transit in an unfamiliar country, I know sometimes the body just really needs to sleep. If you're absolutely exhausted and have no hope of functioning, do take a nap. Limit yourself to 20 minutes, which offers just enough time to refresh energy levels without allowing the body to fall into deep sleep.
- Keep to Your Rituals. If a cup of coffee or the 7 Minute Workout in the morning is how you normally begin the day at home, do the same while traveling. This also goes for sleeping rituals. I struggle with insomnia and I use the Pzizz Sleep app to help me fall asleep most nights. By following the same wake up and sleep rituals from home, you're giving the body the recognizable signals for waking up and sleeping it's already used to.
- Use Caffeine Wisely. We all know the power of caffeine, but resist the urge to fight jetlag with extra caffeinated drinks, as the results often backfire after the artificially-induced jolt fades. Maintaining normal caffeine habits while traveling should be fine, but just keep in mind to align consumption with the new time zone and don't overdo it.
These techniques have worked well for me while traveling both forward or backward through time zones. Since there's no cure for jetlag, even after following any number of tips, one can still feel its effects. Remember to relax and do your best to get through it, reminding yourself it's not forever, and adjusting in a new country is much more fun than adjusting when you're back at work at home!
Learning what other travelers do to battle jetlag is always helpful, so we'd love to hear yours!