Nothing is quite like that first day in a brand new, exciting location. Unless, of course, you spend it sleeping. Jetlag is the natural result of your body’s natural rhythms (circadian rhythms if we want to be fancy) which are set to the time zone in which you live. Traveling to a different time zone requires a good deal of adjustment. In order to get the most out of your trip, you will want to make that adjustment as quickly and easily as possible. Here are a few tips and tricks to help you along.
Get a Head Start
There are several tricks you can use to get yourself adjusted to a new place once you’re there. Getting started before you even leave for the airport is one of the best anti jetlag boosts you can give yourself. The easiest place to control your sleeping habits will be in your own home and bed, without any distractions. For a few days before you leave, start adjusting your sleep schedule. This way, you can make the changes gradually, and the overall adjustment will be far less jarring once you arrive at your destination.
Set Your Watch
This is also a case of the-sooner-the-better. We generally use the time as a way to gauge our days and schedules. Perhaps you can recall a time when you weren’t tired until you looked at your watch and realized what time it was? The trouble is, changing your watch before you leave is not going to be helpful. (Try explaining to the airline that the reason you were five hours for your flight was that you were already on local time…) So remember to change your watch or phone time as soon as you sit down on the plane.
Sleeping on the Plane
Sleeping on the flight to avoid jetlag needs to be a decision. This can go one of two ways. The first thing to do is check what time it will be when you arrive at your destination. If you are arriving in the morning, then sleeping on the flight will be a good idea. This means that you will need to prepare accordingly. Bring any earplugs, eye mask, personal blanket and travel pillow that will help you to drop off. Eat a meal that usually makes you feel sleepy afterward, perhaps, and don’t stay up watching the in-flight movies.
If you will be arriving in the evening, however, you will want to be tired enough to sleep that night. So you will need to focus on staying awake. Feel free to take advantage of those brightly-lit movie screens (which will trick your brain into staying awake. Science!). Maybe indulge in a few caffeinated beverages. Make sure not to have any for a few hours before you arrive though, so you’ll be nice and tired.
Dehydration is a common result of travel, as the airplane is often very dry and the stress and activity might make you forget to have as much water as usual. This can cause havoc with your sleep schedule, however. It is important to make sure that you are well hydrated while traveling. A word of warning against the “drinking to feel sleepy” adage: alcohol might make you drop off, but the quality of your sleep will not be very good. Even if you are not technically suffering from jet lag at the time, spending the first day of your vacation bleary and parched will not be an auspicious start to the trip.
Sleeping pills can be useful in combating jetlag. You might already be using them on a daily basis. However, you should be very cautious when applying them in this context. Think about how they usually affect you. If you normally get knocked out for eight hours, and your flight is only seven hours, you are going to run into some issues. For those for do not normally use them, it might not be a good idea to experiment while traveling. Determined to use them? Give them a few test runs in the days leading up to your trip so you’ll know what you are dealing with.
Use the Light
As mentioned earlier, nothing tells your body that it’s daytime like, well, the daytime. If you need to stay awake, getting out into the sunlight will be an effective way of doing it. This will also make it easier to adjust to the overall feeling of the day coming to an end at the right time. If you need to sleep, then light is something to be avoided. No movie or phone screens, no bedside lamp. Keep it nice and dark, and you’ll be dropping off in no time, well on your way to beating your jetlag.
Don’t Rush It
Your body’s natural rhythms are there for a reason. Of course, it’s important to get on the schedule of your destination as soon as you can manage it, and you can speed up the process, but try not too push yourself too hard. If you really need to take a nap on the first day, then pencil it into the schedule. Your body will adjust. You can help it along by adjusting everything else to the right times, like meals and exercise. But if you force yourself to switch too quickly, you can end up tired and drained. Not only will this prevent you from enjoying your trip as much as you should, but traveling tired can be a safety hazard.