As much as I love to travel, jet lag – no matter how small or large of a time change – always seems to throw me off.
Now as I’m getting older – the struggle is real!
For many, the interruption of a regular routine and sleep schedule can really mess with the enjoyment of a trip – especially one that is packed with things to do and see and who wants to waste any precious time sleeping instead of exploring and making memories.
Back in 2011, as I was about to embark on the longest flight I had taken at that point – from Columbus, OH to Auckland, New Zealand, I knew I needed to have a plan for dealing with jet lag.
I would be gone for 2 weeks almost zero down time to get rested, so I needed to be ready!
So what did I do?
Here are my four best tried and true recommendations:
#1: Be rested before you leave
While most of us leave for a trip to explore the world as a way to escape the stresses of our daily lives, traveling in itself is a stressful event! Staying up late the night before a short 3 day trip to pack or kick off your vacation festivities with a bon voyage get together with your friends, may work for those shorter trips, but starting packing a week or 2 in advance for your longer trips.
I’ve found I am way more organized, I hardly forget a thing and I leave for the trip without the night before/morning of scramble.
It is an amazing feeling to fly away feeling calm and ready to take on a trip of a lifetime that you have to look forward to.
#2: Create an inflight “routine”
Wear comfortable clothing
While I am not a proponent of wearing pajamas on an airplane and knowing I plan to rest and sleep, finding clothing that is comfortable and layer-able is key. With the increase in popularity of “athleisure wear” both men and women can fly comfortably and fashionably.
Select your sleep based on the length of flight
Sleep is sacred to me when traveling and I know once I finally do fall asleep, I’m usually out. The last thing I want is someone tapping me on the shoulder to get up. For me, I always opt for the window or middle sleep on longer flights – I’d rather be the one doing the tapping – sorry in-fight neighbor.
Until I want to start ponying up the money to fly business and first class, this is how I make coach work!
Consider the help of a sleep aid
I typically avoid using medicine as my first go to for any type of ailment whether at home or on vacation, but the sleep aid Ambien (generic name zolpidem) is personally the one best tactic I use for any flight of 8+ hours.
My trip to New Zealand was the first time I tried it out and being the straight and narrow kind of gal I am, I was kind of terrified to take it – Ambien can have side effects, and if misused, can be habit-forming, but I knew after consulting my doctor, and reading and following the directions carefully that I should be ok and decided to try it out.
The challenge with Ambien is that it is supposed to be taken on an empty stomach and without alcohol (boo!) and many longer flights will serve you dinner within the first hour or so once you’ve taken off.
Every trip I have passed on dinner and the free drinks (believe me the sleep is worth it) despite the flight attendants reminding me how long until I’ll have access to another meal. I calculate when to take my Ambien based on how long the flight is – for example if I am going to be on the plane for 12 hours from wheels up to landing, I will wait about 1-1 ½ hours and stay awake on the plane, hydrate, use the restroom and get comfortable and then take my Ambien. It will usually knock me out for 8-9 hours straight.
When I wake up, I then use that time to move around the plane, stretch and then at that point breakfast is usually being served.
I eat whatever is put in front of me, drink more water and from there I am usually 100% on local time and ready to take on the world!
#3: Say no (or limit) in-flight entertainment
Maybe this one isn’t hard for me because I’m not a big TV or movie person, but if you’re the type that gets sucked into the endless choices of in-flight entertainment, turn off the screen and get to sleep!
Binge watching your favorite show or watching a trilogy may be fun in the moment, but you’ll be miserable if you stay awake and fail to rest the entire long flight.
Simple and easy – get your rest!
Once you arrive……
#4: STAY AWAKE AS LONG AS POSSIBLE!
If you followed some of the above tips and got sleep on your overnight flight, now is the time to stay on a regular schedule – is it considered breakfast time?
Grab a coffee and something small even if you aren’t hungry yet.
Feeling like you need an afternoon nap?
Drink more water – hydration helps with exhaustion and find an activity that will keep you moving. If you just got off of a plane for 13+ hours, it actually will do your body a lot of good to take a leisurely walk and stretch out your joints.
If you like to exercise, a short jog can help you feel like yourself. Explore, enjoy the moment and while you don’t have to stay up late – resist the urge to fall asleep at 4pm.
Beating jet lag requires a little preparation and planning – bottom line is leave home unfazed, minimize jet lag’s symptoms by finding what works best for you, force yourself into local time, you will be giving yourself a chance to enjoy your trip from the moment you step off the plane.
What are your best jet lag tips? Share them here!