Getting Over Jet Lag is Easy for Some, Less So for Others. But even if you're someone that has a hard time adjusting to a new time zone, there are some things you can do to speed the process up, when trying to beat jet lag. Here are tips that have worked well for my family and me:
1. No Caffeine
I always have an espresso drink of some kind in the morning, but not when I travel, as I want to be able to sleep on the plane, as well as at my destination. The two days without caffeine are worth it to help with sleep and getting adjusted to the new time zone. Those who are very sensitive to caffeine will even want to avoid decaf coffee, as there can be trace caffeine left, and also chocolate, which contains some caffeine.
2. Use the IFE Sparingly: Don't Watch Movies Right Before Sleeping
It's ironic that so much of what people do on planes is watch movies or TV shows on the in-flight entertainment screen (or their own laptop or tablet) given that the blue spectrum light that the screens emit more greatly suppresses melatonin than other types of light. This makes it harder to fall asleep after looking at screens, than reading a printed book, or dimming the lights and listening to music.
3. Drink Plenty of Water, and No Alcohol
I'll admit that I don't always follow the no alcohol rule on flights where I intend to sleep, but I should. I had plenty of water, no alcohol on my most recent overnight flight to Europe, and felt much better a few hours later than I usually do after red eye flights, even though I hadn't slept all that well.
4. Eat a Light Meal
The other thing that probably helped on this most recent overnight flight was having a light meal. I had seafood both for my starter and main, no bread, and no dessert. That made it easier to nap and not feel so groggy upon waking up, compared to what it would have been like if I'd consumed a richer, heavier meal.
5. Use Melatonin or a Sleep Aid
While it's great if you can naturally fall asleep whenever you want to, some of us need a sleep aid. I've found melatonin, available over the counter in the vitamins section of most drugstores, works pretty well. Take it about 20-30 minutes before you want to fall asleep, and don't counteract its benefits by looking at screens (see above).
6. Bring a Portable Mattress, if Not Flying Singapore Suites, JAL First Class or JAL Business Class
If you've ever thought that even your business class flat bed seat was a little too hard or uncomfortable, then the answer is to bring a portable mattress pad with you, such as the Therm-a-Rest. It's made a huge difference for my husband and me, when we remember to bring it. The only flights where we've found it not necessary, because the provided mattress pad is so good, are Singapore Suites, JAL First Class, JAL Sky Suite Business Class, and ANA First Class.
7. Take a Short Nap if Needed to Get Through the Day
Conventional wisdom says that even when you arrive in the morning after a red eye flight, you should somehow get through the day without a nap so you can get on a local schedule. Maybe this works for some people, but it's never worked for me. If I'm tired, which I usually am, since red eye flights from the East Coast to Europe are so short, I take a short nap in the early afternoon.
I set an alarm, so I'm not tempted to sleep more than 1.5 hours or so, and the rest helps me actually make it through the rest of the work day and dinner, so that I'm not crashing at 7pm. That way I'm less likely to wake up early, and am better able to get on a normal schedule.
8. Exercise or Go for a Walk at Your Destination
I don't know about you, but I almost always sleep better on days I've exercised, so it makes sense to do this at your destination, to help you fall asleep in the new time zone. Even if you don't manage a full workout, a good walk outdoors in the sunlight can help your body reset.
What are your tips to beat jet lag?
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