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Travel 101–Beating Jet Lag

July 22, 2010

Jet Lag—we all know how horrible it feels.  You are so tired that you feel like a walking zombie, and that random park bench looks awfully tempting for a nap, even though it’s the middle of the day, and you have no idea where you are.  You are disoriented enough that when an immigration officer asks about the nature and duration of your stay, your answer is so incoherent and muddled that he laughs at you and says “Here, just show me your papers” (yes, that happened to me, embarrassingly enough).  Sleep deprivation is brutal and can ruin the first few days of your trip, but there are a few things you can do to ease the pain.  None are full-proof, but different people will swear by different methods, so try a few and see what works best for you!  I’m sure you’ll strike gold with one of them.

Begin to Fight Jet Lag Before You Leave, And On the Plane:

  • Get plenty of sleep before you leave, and if possible, try to adjust your sleep pattern by a few hours to come closer to matching the time zone of your destination.  Some people even fully take on their new sleep schedule 48 hours before they leave!  You’ll feel kind of out of it those two days before you leave, but on the bright side, you won’t miss out on your first two days of vacation.
  • Change your watch to the new time—if you tell yourself it is no longer 4pm, but is nearly midnight, your body will catch on to the new time sooner as well.
  • Drink one or two caffeinated beverages (coffee and soda) because the caffeine adjusts your circadian rhythm and will make you less sleepy (man, I love biology…”circadian rhythm”…so cool).  Don’t have too many caffeinated drinks, though, especially if you are very sensitive to caffeine, because you may have trouble falling asleep later.
  • Drink every single non-alcoholic beverage you can get your hands on during the flight.  You automatically become dehydrated when you fly, and exhaustion + dehydration = massive crummy feeling.
  • However, even though you are bound to become dehydrated on the plane, I know people who swear that the one and ONLY way to bet jet lag is to down the alcoholic beverages.  I’ve never tried this, so I can’t say if it works (I think I would personally just feel a million times worse!), but some people stand by this and insist that it is the best cure for preventing jet lag.  Still sounds terrible to me though.  Try with caution!
  • Nap on the plane if it’s nighttime at your destination, but if it’s daytime there, then try your hardest to stay awake.

Once You Land:

  • Walk around, and breathe the fresh air, and soak up the sun!  Seriously, sometimes the best remedy for jet lag is the most natural one—get outside and move around and your body will naturally sync with the time zone.  Some people even switch into sports-wear to go on a jog.  The more you’re outside and fight sleep, the better you’ll feel later.
  • Whatever you do, DON’T NAP!  Try to stay awake until the time when locals go to bed, or at least try to stay up as close to that time as possible.  If you nap, your body will stay confused, and you’ll regret that nap come day 2 of jet lag.  You may even catch a cold if your body stays stressed and struggles to reset its internal body clock.  And that is a terrible way to start any trip!

While there is no one way to beat let lag, there are many tricks of the trade people swear by, so hopefully one of these tidbits will be of help!  What are your methods of beating jet lag?  Do you have a trick you live by?  Please share your secrets!

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