Do you always dread jet lag after a long plane ride? How to survive jet lag? Here are some tips that help reduce your jet lag.
What is a jet lag?
If you take a long plane trip to the east or the west you will pass through different time zones in a very short time. Your body usually cannot adapt to this very quickly, leaving you with a disrupted day and night rhythm.
To give you an example, if you fly from Paris to Los Angeles, you go back in time a whopping 9 hours. You leave at 10 a.m. French time and arrive a little after noon U.S. time (PST). And the flight is over 11 hours long. When you arrive in Los Angeles, you’ll feel like it is already 9 p.m. instead of noon.
What are the symptoms of jet lag?
When you’re experiencing jet lag, you usually suffer from (one of) these symptoms:
- Fatigue, you lie awake at night and want to sleep during the day.
- No appetite or you have cravings at the craziest times.
- Irritable, you are easily irritated.
- You may even experience gastrointestinal discomfort, as they too have to get used to your new rhythm.
- Flu-like feeling, you just don’t good.
Fortunately, over time, these symptoms will dissapear. How long jet lag lasts varies from person to person. Some people are rid of it within a day, but for most people, it can take a while, from a few days to a week.
Jet lag east vs west
How you experience your jet lag also depends a lot on where you fly to. Is jet lag worse east to west or the other way around? It really depends on how you experience it. For me personally jet lag from east to west feels worse, but others have more problems with jet lag flying west to east.
Jet lag east
Are you flying from Europe to Bali, Thailand, or Australia, for example? Then you fly with the times. It is a few hours later at the place where you arrive than where you left. You may find that your flight may be flying at night (and then you will have a very short night of a few hours) which means you will arrive the next morning. And then you have to stay awake the whole day….
Jet lag west
Are you flying from Europe to Mexico, the United States, or Brazil, for example? Then you fly west and fly against time. It is a few hours earlier in these destinations than in the location you are coming from.
Depending on your flight, you usually arrive in the afternoon. You may be very tired, but the adrenaline often keeps you going until you can go to sleep. The big disadvantage is only that you are wide awake in the middle of the night because your body thinks it is already late morning.
If you travel from north to south (or vice versa) you will not suffer from jet lag, as you will stay in the same time zone.
How to survive jet lag? 14 tips
After many long-distance trips (especially to the West), over the years I have discovered a few things that help me get rid of jet lag a little faster. How to deal with jet lag? Here are 14 tips to beat jet lag.
Preparing for jet lag starts before your trip. Find out in advance what the time difference is with your destination. Try to get into the new rhythm a few days before departure. Are you going west? Then try to go to sleep later than your usual time. If you go east, you can try to get up a little earlier. Every little bit helps.
Start your trip relaxed
However, the most important thing is to start your trip fully relaxed. Don’t worry about jet lag; it will affect you no matter what. The more stressed you are, the worse it gets. So make sure that everything is well arranged before your trip and that you arrive at the airport well in time.
Set your clock to the new time immediately
As soon as you board the plane, change your clock (your watch, your phone, or any other device) to the time of my destination. During the (usually long) flight, this is how you can get used to the new time a bit. This jetlag advice already makes the transition a little easier.
Try to sleep or rest during the flight
Try to rest when it is nighttime at your destination and keep your eyes open when it is daytime at your destination. Really can’t sleep? (which I totally understand because I cannot sleep on planes) Just try to relax as much as you can.
Tip! This travel pillow has a unique design that helps you fall asleep faster.
Adapt your food intake
If at all possible: try to accommodate your new eating rhythm. It really helps with cravings at weird times. A few days before your trip, for example, you can start eating a little earlier or later than you are used to. During the flight there’s not much you can do about it (unless you bring your own food), but fortunately airlines usually already take this into account a bit, by serving dinner or breakfast at a certain time.
Install a special app
To get used to the time difference, there are also several apps you can install to help you reduce jet lag. These apps tell you at what time to do what. Great apps that help you beat your jet lag are Timeshifter and Uplift.
Eat healthy and drink a lot of water
Drink as much water as possible and also bring some healthy things (fruits, nuts) as a snack. This makes you less likely to develop gastrointestinal problems.
Taking caffeine and alcohol is generally not recommended. But to be honest, I do often take a glass of wine during the flight myself, I feel that it actually makes me more relaxed.
Relax, relax, relax
When you arrive at your destination relaxed, it is much easier to deal with the lack of sleep. Entertain yourself, make sure to be calm, and just let it go.
At your destination: join the rhythm
Do you want to beat jet lag as fast as possible? Then this might be one of the best jet lag tricks: at your destination, try to get used to the local rhythm right away.
Eat when the locals eat, not when you yourself are hungry. Go to sleep at the time you always go to sleep. The faster you adjust to your new time, the faster you get used to it.
You don’t have to get used to it right away
Give yourself time to get used to it. You really don’t have to get over your jet lag within a day. It’s already great if you make a few hours of profit per day. When I traveled to the US from Europe last time, I was wide awake by 1.30 a.m. the first morning and 3 a.m. the second day. Not great, but I was pleased to learn that it was improving so fast.
You can be bummed about it, of course, but you can also imagine that there is already an improvement. Either way, your jet lag will heal in a few days.
Take advantage of your jet lag
Jet lag is not necessarily negative. Sometimes it’s actually convenient that your biological clock is a little off. And honestly, this is one of my favorite jet lag tips: take advantage of your jet lag.
To give you an example. Thanks to my jet lag I woke up extremely early when I was in Australia. I went to the beach and saw this incredible sunrise. There was no one, just me, a palm tree, and the sun. It felt magical to this day one of my greatest travel memories ever.
Getting enough exercise is always healthy and also helps to overcome your jet lag. So take a nice long walk when you arrive at your destination, especially if it is still light. The better you sleep that night. As you can see, surviving jet lag can be easy!
Don’t do: too many naps
It is very tempting to take a nap in the afternoon when you really can’t take it anymore. Try to avoid this, because this is very likely to actually prolong your jet lag, which is exactly what you don’t want. So try to stay awake and only go to sleep at your usual time (or just a little earlier).
If all else really fails…
Do you have tremendous difficulty falling asleep at night? In extreme cases, you can always take a melatonin pill. Melatonin is a substance your body produces when it gets dark and it is time to go to sleep. So with such a pill, you can fool your body a bit. Be careful not to use too much of it.
More practical travel tips?
Now you know how to prepare for jet lag! I hope these tips actually help you reduce your jet lag. Looking for more practical travel tips? You might also like to read these articles:
- How to plan a perfect road trip? The best road trip tips!
- How to save money for travel (the easy way)
- Travel photography tips & how to sell them
And these books are filled with fun and useful travel tips:
Travel the World Without Worries: An Inspirational Guide to Budget and Adventure Travel
International Travel Secrets: Take Shorter Trips, More Often, for Less
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This article first appeared in August 2017. Last update: September 2022 with even more tips.
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