We’ve all had it at some point before in our lives. In fact, I’ve struggled with it more than most people I know. Maybe you’ve just returned from your travels in a distant country, or you’ve already been back for a few days, or you’re just about to head back home and want to know how to tackle the jetlag when you get there. Whatever the situation, jet lag (to some degree) is inevitable. I can never seem to escape it! Research shows that it takes one day for each time zone you pass through for your body to recover from jetlag. So, for instance, if your home time zone is a six-hour difference to where you’ve just been, you will have jetlag for approximately six days. It could be more or less. Whether you’re experiencing a slight bit of nausea, or completely struggling to keep your eyes open, you’re not alone.
Here’s my handy travel guide for how to beat the jetlag and get back to feeling like your normal self in no time.
Get plenty of sleep the night before your long-haul flight
If you’re planning on a long-haul flight that will probably last several hours, perhaps all through the night, then first step is to try to get as much sleep as you can before the day of your flight. I know it’s easier said than done, as a lot of people experience pre-flight anxiety when they’re traveling thousands of miles, but if you’re well-rested even before you switch time zones, then you’re already one step ahead.
Work out how much sleep you need on the plane
Before you get on the plane, set your watch backwards or forwards to your home time zone. Then, try to work out whether some kind of nap or sleep will be beneficial in order to help you get back into that time zone. For example, if my flight departs at midday (12 PM) and lasts eight hours, but my destination time zone is five hours back (7 AM) – which means I’ll get there around 3 PM (+8 hours) – then I have a nap almost as soon as I get on the plane so that I will be able to stay up until bedtime of my home time zone. This is a handy little tip and helps massively to prevent jetlag from striking too aggressively.
Force your body to stay awake until night time
I find this step really difficult when all I want to do is sleep. So, it’s 6 PM at home and you’re trying to make it until 10 PM before you go to bed – and you’re absolutely exhausted from your flight. You’ve hit a brick wall, your eyes are drooping massively, and there’s just no way you can stay up a moment longer. Well, it’s important that you do! I know it’s challenging, but try your best to stay awake until a reasonable time. You don’t have to last until your usual bedtime, but try not to go to bed too early. If you’re really struggling, you can wake yourself up by getting up and taking a short walk around your house or outside. If all else fails, grab some caffeine if you like coffee. (This works for me every time!)
Eat proper meals
When you’re super tired, it’s easy to forget to eat right. You grab a snack here and there, but it’s too much hassle for you to cook yourself a proper meal. This will only worsen your jetlag. When you’re jetlagged, it’s so important to eat a good, square meal at the right meal times of your current location. For example, if you wake up too early at 4 AM – don’t eat breakfast just yet. If you’re hungry, by all means, have a little healthy snack – but then go back to sleep, wake up, and have breakfast at your usual breakfast time. I always find that I feel extremely nauseous with jetlag when I don’t have enough to eat, so make sure you are eating well as well as eating at the appropriate times.
Get some vitamin D
This one has been proven according to jetlag experts. Sunshine and vitamin D reduces the effects of jetlag and actually helps you to get over it quicker. Get some sunlight, preferably from outside. If you can’t get out in the sunshine for any reason – or if, like me, and you live in a country where sunshine is practically non-existent – don’t worry. Vitamin D alone will still help with beating jetlag. You can buy oral vitamin D from a local health shop or a pharmacy, or even better, take your favorite brand with you on your next long-haul trip.
Let your body rest
Perhaps you’re one of the unlucky few who has to go into the office the very next day after your long-haul flight, or you have a million and one things to do and have no time to stop. It’s extremely important to let your body rest when you’re jetlagged. I’ve made the mistake several times of going full speed ahead when I’m jetlagged and it’s not a smart thing to do! You’ve made your body travel such a long way, on a plane with recirculated and pressurized air,, and put it through several different time zones. It’s tired, it’s exhausted, and it doesn’t know what on earth is going on for a few days. Your body is probably out of sorts and need some time to heal. This means early nights and plenty of rest. Don’t go rushing to the gym the next day, or start driving that three-hour car journey to meet up with an old friend. Well, you can, if you need to, but it won’t be safe. Plus, it’ll take your body even longer to recover.
Distract yourself from thinking about it
When I’m jetlagged, I seem to wallow in my own little pool of self-pity. I tell anyone who will listen that I’m jetlagged and I can’t “human” properly. I seem to enjoy everybody knowing that I have jetlag so they can provide me with the sympathy I so desperately crave. I moan about feeling sick., my body being beat, I can’t keep my eyes open – and so on and so forth. Sadly, I don’t always moan to someone either; sometimes, I just moan to myself. I know I’m not really helping myself by dwelling on it. In fact, I’m almost thinking about it too much, and it ends up having a negative psychological effect on my recovery from jetlag. So, more importantly than resting your body, you also need to find a way to distract yourself from the way you’re feeling. This could be something as simple as watching that TV show you’ve been meaning to catch up on, or going for a little walk – hopefully in the sunshine! Stop telling yourself you feel rough and start telling yourself that it’s okay, because you will feel a lot better soon.
I know these tips are easier said than done, but if you commit to one, some, or even all of them, then I’m sure you will find that you feel a lot better soon. Jetlag can be nasty, but it never lasts too long. Just remember all your travel memories and realize that, even though your body is going through a lot to enable it to get back to normal, it’s worth the temporary pain. Stay strong and start planning your next long-haul trip.