Have you ever been on an international vacation, where time zones are virtually opposite of your own you know the woes of Jet Lag? Being a Physician Assistant, I have heard a lot of old wives tales, tall tales, and some downright strange things that people claim helps their Jet Lag. Here are my tips that I feel are legitimate, tried, tested and true to work for me.
What to bring if you want to sleep: See my packing tips post on what to bring with you on the plane. But for sleeping get a stuff sack, here is what to include in it: put your contacts/glasses, sleep aid, water bottle (filled inside the airport), eye mask, earplugs, pillow, and blanket. I like this J-pillow because my head always falls forward or to the side & when I bring the head wings (what I call them) out then it holds my head in place perfectly. Also place a small bag at your feet so you can use it as a foot rest, or if you have room you can buy one of these foot rests – but I found them to be hard to get into and out of.
Here are my top 16 ways of combating Jet Lag.
- Avoid or minimize caffeine as much as possible, a few days before your trip. If you need energy to be able to make it through the work day prior to your trip; try Natural Energy Supplements from an Organic store or health foods store.
- Choose an overnight flight, they typically turn all the lights off on the plane at night which makes it easier to fall asleep. I wear my eye mask even if the lights are off because there is always one or two people that turn their reading lights on & wakes me up (#lightsleeper).
- Choose a seat away from the bathrooms, even with earplugs the carts and bathroom visitors will wake you up. I also choose a window seat so I don’t inadvertently get hit by an elbow, a cart, or woken up by the person next to me to visit the restroom.
- Make sure to bring some candy, suckers, or freeze dried fruit to give to children who wake up and start screaming. It saves the mom from embarrassment, the flight attendants stress (because of grouchy passengers) and helps everyone get back to sleep. I’m not a mom, but the few times I have done this, it works like a charm. (One mom actually suggested dried fruit, or crackers so it doesn’t give them a sugar high and make it worse. You can also have little packets of crayons or paper in your bag as well)
- Take a long walk/run prior to your flight so it helps you relax before you go.
- Wear compression stockings, these can be found at any Walgreens, but the really good ones are the ones that you measure from your ankle to the knee and around the calf. I like the ones with the open toes because they seem cooler & don’t squish my toes if my legs start to swell slightly. When you sit down the blood vessels in your groin and behind your knees get cut off resulting in fluid retention in your feet and calves. It can set you up for a blood clot as well (no matter your age), unless you plan on walking every 30 minutes — which isn’t always possible because of the risk of running into turbulence. When I sit for long periods of time even at work the compression stockings save my life. You will be amazed at how much this helps your energy level by the time you reach your destination.
- Utilize Jet Lag Rooster to properly plan your sleeping times make sure you start this at least 2 days prior to your departure. This was developed by a psychologist in Florida.
- Some flight attendants do suggest that you just sleep when you are tired, and try to stay awake when the sun is up. I find that this method works for me as well as just sleeping as much as possible when I’m on the plane.
- Set your clock to the destination that you will be in & keep doing your daily routine by the destination timezone
- Don’t overeat or drink alcohol on the flight, try to stick with water and the healthier options when your flying as this will help fight off fatigue when you land.
- Don’t go straight to bed when you reach your destination, decide on a touristy site with lots of people. Preferable interactive sites as this will force yourself to stimulate your mind and your legs. I typically pick the most popular museum, then get an audio guide so I don’t have to concentrate on reading & wander through all the spaces & only look at what is really interesting to me.
- Once you have toured a little, have dinner at the typical time for your destination, go take a shower/check-in at the hotel. Watch a movie, and then fall to sleep a little bit early — or lay there until its time to sleep (whichever works). I typically don’t do much the first day I’m at my international destination, because you are always a bit tired from the flights and airports & uncomfortable plane seats.
- The next day I usually wake up at a typical time for the destination, and go and find somewhere to eat (even if I’m not super hungry) that has people to talk to, and the Jetlag doesn’t seem to hit me too bad.
- If you are active and exercise at home, its better to keep exercising while your visiting your destination even if its just a brisk walk. Delaying your exercising can actually cause you to lose more sleep. (Check out my plethora of Hotel & travel workouts on Pinterest)
- When I am traveling back home, that’s when the JetLag is really bad. I will typically take a over the counter sleep aid (Melatonin, 5-HTP, or if you aren’t on any blood thinners then consider St John’s Wort or Valerian Root) — Don’t combine all of these sleep aids, just take the recommended dose for ONE these herbal supplements. I typically will buy my supplements from an Organic Food store and look for one that has some sort of certification on it. Typically supplements and herbs are not FDA regulated, so that means you typically don’t know what your going to be putting in your body. I take the sleep aid the minute I get on my longest flight (so if I have a transfer or something, I’m not too groggy).
- I would not suggest getting any of these with Magnesium, if you take more magnesium than your body requires it can actually cause some pretty narly diarrhea (a known side effect of oral Magnesium).
- When you get home, immediately unpack your suitcase, I typically will take a 30 minute nap to tide me over until my usual pre-vacation bedtime. The key here is, to sleep when your tired, but if it is during normal wakeful hours– limit it to 20-30min naps.
- If you wake up in the middle of the night when you get home, I will look at a few social media sites, watch a YouTube Video on Classical Music or Yoyo Ma & let that help me fall back asleep. Please realize if you do use your phone it can stimulate your frontal cortex and make you more awake, but for me, reading always puts me to sleep no matter what it is. So whatever typically makes you feel sleepy, do that and then try going back to bed.
Happy Travels — Happy Tales — and good luck sleeping 😉