I have written plenty about jet lag in kids, however, we adults get it too. In fact, I’ve never met another human being, regardless of how frequently they travel, that doesn’t get some form of jet lag. I was an expat and learned how to curb jet lag over time. Here are a few tips for handling jet lag resulting from overseas travel.
1. Monitor your sleep while on the plane. We don’t always have the luxury of scheduling our flights according to our sleep schedules. For example, if you’re on a 15 hour flight to Asia that leaves LAX at 1pm and arrives at your destination at 6pm local time, you probably shouldn’t conk out for a majority of the flight. The reason is because you’ll be arriving in the evening and need to sleep again a few hours later. Can you sleep 7 hours on a plane and then another 7 a few hours later? Most people can’t. So take the time on the plane to enjoy the free drinks and catch up on movies. That being said, if you’re on the midnight flight that lands in Asia
2. Do not try to cut calories – EAT! A huge part of jet lag can be related to your eating, because you’ll now be sleeping when you’re normally eating. It’s not uncommon for your body to wake you up in the middle of the night to let you know that it’s starving. This is partially solved on the airplane, where you’re served a few meals out likely out of sequence from your normal eating habits. Don’t skip them to cut calories. Or if you do, order yourself a nice room service meal before you go to bed. Just do not go to bed hungry or even in an “I could eat or not mode.” Be full, but don’t make yourself ill, obviously.
3. Be mindful of how much liquid you drink. It’s always advised to stay hydrated on the plane, but don’t over do it right before bed time. If you have to wake up at night and go to the bathroom, you may never return to sleep.
4. Medicate yourself. I’m not a doctor, obviously, so ask yours for advice. By far the easiest way to avoid jet lag is to take some form of sleep medication. Before I was a parent, I took Ambien. But here is the key, even if you take it on your first night and successfully sleep through, the second night is usually the hardest. Don’t get overly confident that you’ll be fine since you slept well the first night. Take it for your first two nights on the ground, at least. This is what worked for me. I don’t take sleep medication anymore since I travel with La Jolla Girl and want to be “with it” in case she needs something. Melatonin never worked for me as it’s just not strong enough.
5. Consider bunking separately for the night. People experience jet lag differently. If your significant other gets it and you don’t, why sacrifice your sleep by listening to them toss and turn. I’m totally serious! There’s no need for both of you to suffer.
6. DO NOT NAP. I can’t not stress this enough. A cat nap is completely fine, in fact you’ll likely need it. Under any circumstances, do not allow yourself to sleep 3 hours, for example, in the afternoon. That will totally prevent you from sleeping like a normal person later that night. It’s very, very difficult to wake up from a cat nap when you’re jet lagged but do whatever it takes to do it. I promise.
7. When returning home, give yourself a free day before returning to responsibilities. Your mind also keeps you awake. If you land and have “I have so much to do, I can’t think straight!” running through your mind, you won’t sleep. Try to organize yourself so all you have to do is laundry, sort mail, and a few chores the day after you return. Easier said that done, obviously.
8. Get a massage or a facial or both. If you can swing it, the day after you land, get a massage. This will help you with any airplane seat related soreness and get your circulation flowing. It helps to reduce any swelling too – I’m always swollen after I get off an airplane. A facial will help get your skin back to normal. You’ll be tired and the recirculated cabin air is harsh, so you’ll likely be dry. Also, read up on these beauty products that help after a long flight.
9. Pretend like you don’t have jet lag. This is harder to do when you return home and back to real life. But the best way to get over jet lag is to power through it. Don’t baby yourself too much, I mean you’re the one that decided to go on holiday, right?
Things I have done with jet lag that I wouldn’t recommend:
- Boil a kettle of water and try to pour yourself tea
- Chop massive amounts of vegetables
- Edit documents
- Drive long distance
- Nap (yes, I’ll say it again)
If you have kids, adhering to the above is way more difficult. I almost added write a blog post to the list above, but I wrote this last night, jet lagged at 3am, after La Jolla Girl woke me up to go to the bathroom. I could not fall back asleep. See #3.
*Photo credit: Flickr/Gin Fizz