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Surviving Jet Lag

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Surviving Jet Lag

After spending much of the year traveling through a multitude of time zones, I can say with certainty, that jet lag is real and it can be mean. It’s always been an issue for me, but I suspect it’s getting worse as I get older, with recovery now taking upwards of a week (depending on how different the time zone is). 

Since we have more travel ahead of us, I decided to do some research ahead of time to try and figure out how to get in front of it. Please share your secrets so we can all have more fun with the traveling part of travel. 

Prep Before You Leave

Before your trip begins, try gradually adjusting your bedtime to match your destination’s time zone. If you’re heading east, go to bed an hour earlier each night. If west, do the opposite. 

Stay Hydrated

Airplane cabins are notorious for being dry, and dehydration can exacerbate jet lag. So avoid too much coffee or alcohol during the flight (I know), and make sure to drink plenty of water. Hydration helps the body cope better with the strain of travel.

Eat Light

Avoid heavy meals during the flight and try to eat according to the meal times at your destination. Once you arrive, start your meals on local time as soon as possible. Our bodies often use food cues to help set internal rhythms, so this can aid in adjustment.

Embrace the Sunshine

Once you arrive, make sure to get out into the natural daylight, as sunshine helps reset your internal body clock. We usually plan a light outdoor activity on the first day. A nice stroll around the city not only fights jet lag but also helps you figure out your surroundings. 

Avoid Napping Upon Arrival

Your bed might be calling your name after a long flight, but resist the urge to take a long nap as soon as you land. If you must, a short 20-minute power nap is okay, but anything longer might make adjusting to the new time zone even harder. Trust me, I’ve made this mistake before, and it’s a tough one to recover from! This obviously doesn’t apply if you arrive at your destination at bedtime — then get your sleeping in! 

Create a Comfortable Sleep Environment

When it’s finally time to rest, make your sleep environment as comfortable as possible. An eye mask, earplugs and comfortable pajamas can do wonders. 

Consider Over-the-Counter Aids

Some travelers swear by melatonin or over-the-counter sleep aids to help adjust to a new time zone. While I’ve found them helpful occasionally, it’s always best to consult with a healthcare professional before using them, as they may not be suitable for everyone.

Don’t Stress Too Much

Lastly, if you do feel jet-lagged, don’t worry too much. Our bodies are incredibly adaptable, and you’ll adjust in a day or five. Use the time to explore less strenuous activities, and make sure to listen to your body.

Jet lag is often seen as a necessary evil of traveling, but it doesn’t have to ruin your trip. A little preparation, some common sense, and a splash of self-care can make a world of difference.

Jackie Shelton, APR, is a strategic communications veteran who, after 30 years still has a hard time focusing on one particular aspect, so she has stopped trying.

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