Travel is great. Travel is grand. Jet lag, however, is the absolute worst.
Jet lag is when circadian rhythms get totally out of whack, and it can really be overwhelming, exhausting, and über-frustrating.
My family lives on the west coast of the United States. Meaning I travel long distances often, and me voilà… an accidental jet-setter. Fortunately there are jet lag hacks that I’ve discovered over the past five years that have made my life and travels so much more enjoyable. Here are my tricks for combatting the insane bodily and emotional confusion that follows intercontinental time-travel.
I know… you know. But do you? Really? You think that cute little Volvic that you bought in the airport shop constitutes hydration? I’m talking body flush. I’m talking a litre of water at least over the course of your flight. Air travel is extremely dehydrating, in general, and water consumption helps your body and organs function optimally, and it is crucial for the release of toxins. Drinking copious amounts of water will, yes, make you have to take several trips to the airplane loo, but this, my friends, is a good thing and brings me to my next point…
This is a two-part tip. First, during your flight, get up often and frequently and all the time (pleonasm very much intended) to go the bathroom (you’ve been hydrating, right?), to visit the cute guy/girl sitting on the other side of the plane, to ask the flight attendant for more water, to see if you can sit in the cockpit during landing… heck, find any reason to do a couple laps. You may think you look silly, frolicking about the aircraft, but ask yourself this: What’s cooler than being cool? Not. being. jetlagged. And movement is critical for circulation. If “sitting is the new smoking,” then airplane frolicking is the new pilates.
Then, secondly, once you arrive to your destination, exercise. Tout de suite. As soon as possible upon arriving at your destination. This is effective for many reasons. Number one — if you have any hope of falling asleep at a totally different time than your body is used to, you need to exercise it, which will naturally fatigue you. You may say, but, Ann, I’m already exhausted, trust me… Sure, but that exhaustion only lasts so long. Suddenly you’re wide-eyed at 4 in the morning staring at the bedroom ceiling feeling disoriented because your body thinks you should be getting up/eating breakfast/bike riding/etc. Moreover, without getting all physiological on you, exercise is a brilliant metabolic re-calibrator, which is why it is positively excellent for helping you hack jetlag. Yoga is wonderful (calming, stretching.) Walking outside is wonderful (sunshine, light aerobic.) And ecstatic dancing is wonderful, too. Just move it move it like they do in Madagascar, and you’ll be much more likely to get good sleep your first night after travel. *Bliss.*
As soon as you begin your descent, change your watch to the new time zone. (What? You don’t wear a watch? You see it as “one-function gadget”? No, watches are functional jewelry. Fashion and function. Plus, unless you have a mid-century wind-er type of watch, watches don’t run out of battery. Watches don’t spontaneously die. Technology, on the other hand, does. Books always open, and watches always tell time. Remember that.) Anyway, the reason you want to change your watch, is that you want to immediately integrate into the new time zone, body and mind. Try not to think about what time it is in your old time zone, it just messes with you. Think psychosomatics aren’t real? Quick, think of chocolate ganache brownies with coconut whip cream. Your mouth waters, right? You didn’t even need to see or be near those ganache brownies, all you have to do is think about them. Same thing here. If you arrive at your destination and it’s a sunny morning, but you start thinking about how you normally would be sleeping right now, suddenly you get even more tired, and probably a bit surly to boot. Which brings me to…
Remember… we’re trying to integrate into the new time zone. If you start napping (especially for more than 30 minutes) you’re going to further confuse your body. It will be more difficult the first day or two to implement this, however, you will be grateful for your vigilance later as you kiss jetlag goodbye. Feel like napping? Drink water, and go on a walk. Distract yourself. This tip alone could change your travel life.
That being said, do sleep on the plane. Let’s consider the time you’re up in the air as a sort of transitional no man’s land perfect for sleeping and prepping. Regardless of what time you fly, if you’re majorly changing time zones, it’s best to rest in order to prepare for the instant integration. Bring some yummy lavender lotion (very soothing and conducive to shuteye,) slather it on your hands, take a big whiff, and then cozy up with your beanie or eye mask pulled fervently over your eyes. Woe betide any flight attendant who tries to wake you to offer you white bread stuffed with a slice of tomato and cucumber.
Again, it’s a metabolic thing. Basically, when you’re out in the sun, your body knows it’s not time to sleep. Getting out in nature is extremely effective for combatting jet lag on a cellular level. Post-flight is a perfect time to do some earthing. (It’s what you think it is… tromping around on the earth barefoot. Touch some grass. Roll around in a field of daisies. It’s fun.) And the flip side of seratonin is…
One of my best friends is a top model, and is therefore, an actual jet-setter. This is her little trick that has truly worked like a charm for me since moving abroad. Melatonin is a hormone that is naturally present in your body that “anticipates the daily onset of darkness.” Usage: Take one (or half of one) pill of melatonin before you want to sleep, i.e. right before sleepy time on the plane (for longer flights), and 30 minutes before it’s time to go to bed once you arrive. I usually use it for two nights after arriving, and then I trust my body to do its thing. Important: Use with caution. Try half a pill first so that you don’t wake up drowsy. Also important: Think taking NyQuil is a good idea? Please don’t.
If you’re already in a food coma from the saltified and creamy fettucine they served you on the plane, how do you expect to make it until night time once you arrive at your destination? If there’s any scenario where eating clean makes a huge difference, it’s this one.
Eat lightly. Eat veggily.
Now, this is just common sense… but think how you feel, in general, after eating a salad with crudités, versus how you feel after a pizza. Most likely the latter makes you want to take a big fat nap, not helpful for getting over jet lag, as we discussed earlier. Be self disciplined. You can do it.
And, most importantly, be prepared. Bring your own snacks. Good ones. Delicious ones you’ll look forward to eating. Some people recommend doing a juice or liquid fast when flying, and if you can, excellent. This is a challenge for me, though, because eating is one of my favorite activities, and having your own little feast on the plane certainly does help pass the time. But, as I said, preparation is key. Make some amazing salads the morning (or evening) before your flight, like this one, or this amazing almond avocado dip with carrots, celery, and radishes. Bring cashews. Bring almonds. Bring whatever makes your tummy sing. And make sure to include dessert. This way you won’t get any left-out pangs as everyone else eats his or her preservative laden corn-syrup cake the size of a business card. You will have black bean brownies. You will have vegan banana fudge. (Who says decadence has to be all sinful-like?) Just keep it on the healthy side — you don’t want too much sugar, especially the white stuff — it’s not helpful with your plight. Above all, don’t discount how intrinsically linked your fuel is with how you’ll feel after the flight.
So, here’s the thing… I’m loath to laud the benefits of caffeine, because it can be a double-edged sword, but the truth is that it does help me with jet lag once I’ve arrived in my destination. That being said, let us be judicious with the kind of caffeine we choose. The superstar? A strong cup of organic green tea. It’s by far the best choice for many reasons. (How to choose the best green tea.) Now, if you are addicted to coffee (and that’s another topic for another time,) green tea might not do anything for you. I get it. Do what you have to do, just… don’t have caffeine too late in the day, otherwise it could impede you from falling asleep in the evening, and since your body is already struggling to adapt, let us not exacerbate the issue. 5 pm is my cut off. See what works for you, but err on the side of caution, especially when combatting jet lag.
Here’s hoping you have some opportunities to use these tips in the next few months! Try them and let me know how they work for you. Do you have any other tricks to show jet lag who’s boss? Share them below!
May your skies be friendly, and your recovery speedy,