If you have ever taken a trip to another country, you have likely experienced jet lag. It is the inevitable side effect or negative to traveling across time zones. You would think there would be an easy solution to fight jet lag yet there is no sure one way.
You know the usual symptoms of insomnia, irritability, frustration, anxiety and an overwhelming amount of fatigue. This is not the way you hope to begin your trip and avoid if possible, right?
Instead, there are a number of proven jet lag remedies that you can start using on your next trip. All it takes is a little planning to incorporate the following tips!
What Is Jet Lag?
Jet lag is considered to be severe exhaustion that a person feels after traveling a long distance and across one or more time zones.
Usually, we associate with traveling by plane but it can be by any mode of transportation. The effects of jet lag are considered to be a temporary form of a sleep disorder that will dissipate over time.
Basically, a person’s internal clock or circadian rhythm gets knocked out of its normal sleeping schedule. If you have ever taken a long-distance or international flight, you have likely been a victim of jet lag.
You know that feeling where you are so tired that you feel like you might pass out from exhaustion and beyond delirious? If so, you likely hope to diminish or avoid it at all costs!
How Long Does Jet Lag Last?
The way that jet lag affects a person really varies as some people are more sensitive to it than others.
According to experts, it usually takes a day for each time zone that you travel on average. So, if you are traveling across five time zones, then expect about five days to recover.
In general, most people tend to find that jet lag seems worse when traveling from West to East.
Why is that? Well, when traveling from West to East, you are losing time and it is challenging for the body to deal with that. The body is better equipped to take on a longer day than a shortened one.
I myself fall into the category of very sensitive to jet lag, as it usually takes me longer to bounce back after flying to other time zones.
After trips with huge time zone changes such as my trips to China, India, and Africa, I felt like an absolute train wreck for three weeks after getting home. I felt like a walking zombie who wanted to eat in the middle of the night and sleep during the day!
How To Beat Jet Lag
Because of my sensitivity to jet lag, I’ve been determined to test out all the jet lag remedies I can find to combat it.
Over the past few years, I have tried and verified the suggestions below on how to fight jet lag and they really do help. That is, for me these tips do wonders to diminish the feeling of being hit by a bus!
Everyone is different, so do try them and figure out which ones work the best for you. Not all of these tips may be effective for you but they can’t hurt to try them.
If you are human there is no way to completely avoid jet lag, sorry to break it to you… But there is a lot you can do to lessen the effects and get back to feeling your normal self in no time!
1. Book Flight To Land in Afternoon or Early Evening
Usually, when booking a flight, the priority is to find the best price and the least amount of layovers involved. But when researching flights, take into consideration the time that your flight will land in your destination city.
Try to choose your arrival time to coincide with the afternoon or early evening at your destination.
Traveling can be very exhausting, so if you land late in the day then you can go to bed within hours of arriving. That will jump-start you to the new time zone quicker.
It can be difficult if you land in the middle of the night or early in the morning as you will feel the calling of your pillow and struggle to stay awake.
To help give yourself an edge on beating jet lag even before you land is to set your watch to the new time zone when you take off.
The key is to adopt the new time zone inflight and sleep and eat based on the time it is in the city you land in. It will help your body transition to the change in time even before you step off the plane.
And if you do land earlier in the day, stay clear of taking a nap as that might feel good temporarily but it will stall your adjustment in the long run. Stay awake until as close to bedtime as you can and you will be happier for it the next morning!
2. Stay Hydrated
Water is probably one of the most vital things you can do to stay healthy while traveling. And it just happens to be helpful in battling the effects of jet lag. The cabin air on a plane will leave you feeling like you are in the Saharan desert!
There is a severe lack of humidity on planes, so getting in enough water is vital to avoid dehydration. The bonus of drinking more water is that it will give you an excuse to use the restroom and stretch your legs.
Try to drink more water than you are used to especially if your destination is in a hot and humid or high-altitude area. Your body will be adjusting to the new environment and likely be sweating more than usual.
Preventing dehydration is key to avoid any unnecessary setbacks to your trip. Our bodies are made up of about 60% water, so it makes sense that drinking enough water is needed for us to function at our best!
For most people, you either love or hate water. If you really struggle with it, try adding in some fresh citrus (lemon, lime or tangerine) to make it more appealing. To make it easier to drink water on the go, have your own reusable water bottle with you.
3. Soak Up The Sunshine
Any medical professional will tell you that getting sun exposure will assist in regulating your circadian rhythm. Once you land in your destination go outside and soak up some sunshine, aka Vitamin D.
You will immediately feel the positive effects of the sunlight. Although do be careful and have proper reef-friendly sunscreen on while you enjoy the sun!
Getting into the sunlight will signal your internal clock so that you adapt to the new schedule. It will make you feel rested and ready for sleep when it is time.
Now if you land when it is dark, set your alarm to get up early. That way you can go outside and bask in the early morning sunlight and start your day out right.
Natural sunlight is one of the best ways to communicate to your body of when to be awake or asleep. It will deter the feelings of jet lag and prepare you for your next night’s sleep.
4. Get Moving
Soon after landing try to get in some exercise or at least a walk. This is a natural way to manipulate your body to combat jet lag. Taking a walk is a good way to get the lay of the land of where you are staying.
If it is nighttime, check out the hotel gym or even do a light workout in your room. Although if you are sensitive to working out later in the day, maybe just hold off until morning.
Another way to get your body moving is to do some stretching. Your body likely needs it after you have spent hours sitting on a plane or in a car. That will also help relax you before bedtime. I always carry with me a resistance band for just that purpose! You can find it here on Amazon.
If you plan to do site seeing the next day, going outside for a walk or run is not only a perfect way to get in some exercise but gets you out into the sunlight (#3). I do enjoy taking walking tours as you can usually find them in every city. That way you get in some walking and get to learn about the area you are visiting.
For more ideas on how to stay active and fit while traveling, read my post, “11 Easy Ways To Stay Fit While Traveling”.
Tip: It might sound odd but taking your shoes and socks off to go for a walk on the beach will have a grounding effect. This can be anywhere, on sand, dirt or grass as long as your bare feet are making contact with the ground. This will help you relax both emotionally and physically. Give it a try!
5. Avoid Coffee & Alcohol
This is a tough one for me and I am sure for you too! For many including myself, it only seems natural to have one or two drinks especially if its free on a long international flight.
I have always thought that having a drink would help me relax and encourage sleep. But it actually disrupts one’s sleep instead.
The same goes for coffee. Both alcohol and coffee act as stimulants and will either prevent or cause poor sleep by disrupting the body’s sleep patterns.
Even if you manage to fall asleep fairly easy, you will likely find yourself completely wide-eyed in the middle of the night. And we don’t want that!
On top of preventing you from getting a little shut-eye, alcohol and coffee on a flight will dehydrate you. I admit many times I go against this recommendation and have coffee.
One of my favorite things to do when getting to a new city is finding a local coffee shop and enjoying coffee in my new environment.
As long as I just have one on the first day, I’m usually ok. But listen to your body and just don’t overdo it with drinking too much caffeine!
6. Eat Smart
Eating smart is one of the simplest ways to fight jet lag yet we often don’t do it. Easier said than done, right?
When running through an airport, it is so easy to grab fast food which usually involves carbs, fried food and/or sugar. It will taste great but carbs and fatty foods will have a negative impact on sleep. I know, it sucks to hear that!
But as tempting as it might be to grab that slice of pizza or fast food on the go, try to focus on consuming whole foods during the flight. Or at least close to bedtime. Try to eat good food centered around protein, fruits, and veggies.
I like to start my trips out as healthy as possible and carry with me on a plane or a road trip hard-boiled eggs, beef jerky, grapes, almonds, and banana. And hope that I don’t smash and ruin the banana!
7. Meditate (Headspace)
Meditation is one of many great natural jet lag remedies to use. I never used to be the type that would meditate or even thought that it had any beneficial effects.
But oh how surprised I was to find it is. A few years back I was suffering from sleep issues and struggled to “quiet” my mind in order to get some zzz’s.
Now to be clear, meditation can’t prevent jet lag, but it can help your body to relax and sleep better. This will reduce any stress and frustration related to jet lag and not being able to sleep. It will calm the mind and in turn, calm your body.
There isn’t any one right way to do meditation, as there are various forms. My recommendation is to find the type of meditation that works best for you and do your best to stick with it.
I personally found meditating challenging and wasn’t sure how to go about it until I found the app Headspace. Headspace offers various meditations focused on sleep, anxiety, and pain to name a few. With the paid version you get even more options and guides to use.
And if you still need a little assistance, try using a noise machine to block out any background noise. I love the Marpac Rohm noise machine as it is small and compact for traveling. After all, who doesn’t need all the assistance they can get to fight jet lag?
8. Essential Oils
Besides smelling like a heavenly spa, essential oils can make a big difference in your physical and emotional well-being. There really is an essential oil for every ailment but for now, I am just going to focus on a few that can alleviate the effects of jet lag.
The first question you might ask, is whether essential oils can really make a difference? And the answer is both yes and no. It all depends on the quality of the essential oils you are using.
There are many brands out there that might smell good but have no therapeutic value as far as helping your mood or sleep.
So, don’t waste your money on essential oils that won’t do anything! Many times, the cheapest ones are not good quality and are not pure essential oils (mixed with other things).
A brand that I use and has the best quality out there is Doterra essential oils. It is the only brand that I will use on my skin and/or take internally.
My favorite Doterra essential oils to help me relax, fall asleep, and combat jet lag anxiety are Lavender and Vetiver.
Both of these help to relax, calm, and ultimately shut your brain off so that you can fall asleep easier.
If it is morning and you need a little assistance getting moving, try using Peppermint or Lemongrass essential oils as they are uplifting and will increase your alertness naturally.
How do you use the essential oils you may ask? The easiest is to rub a drop or two onto the back of your neck, behind your ears and/or the inside of your wrists.
You can also rub a few drops on your pillow to help breathe in the aroma. And if you have a diffuser handy (I do travel with a small one), diffuse the oil of your choice throughout the night.
Note: I am only recommending the above with the Doterra brand of essential oils. Be cautious of putting any other brand on your skin without doing your research.
9. Use of CBD Oil
Some of you might not be familiar with CBD oil (Cannabidiol) that is an extract from marijuana that does not make you high. But it does have amazing therapeutic value for a number of ailments.
There is still a lot of research that is being done, but more and more the results show that CBD oil can be very effective in treating various ailments.
The first point I would like to address is that it might not be legal everywhere so do look into the laws for your country. It is legal in the United States so access at a dispensary store or online is very easy.
I’m not quite sure why it is illegal as you can’t get a high (no THC) from it. I guess it takes time for the laws to be updated…
I won’t get into all the benefits of CBD oil, but for me personally it enables me to fall asleep very easy.
It relaxes me and helps to stop all those random thoughts that prevent me from getting my zzz’s! It is amazing at minimizing anxiety and regulating sleep, all of which are at a high when jet-lagged.
Every night about 45 minutes to an hour before bed, I put drops of the CBD oil into my decaf tea or eat a small caramel candy with CBD oil in it.
I can’t say enough good things about it but every person’s body will respond differently. So do try different brands and dosages that work the best for you.
Note: Before I found CBD oil, I had been using melatonin when traveling. I no longer use it as I feel CBD oil is much more effective at helping me sleep than melatonin. I also love how I don’t feel any side effects as with sleeping pills.
And keep in mind, there are brands that have CBD oil products that contain THC. These will give you a feeling of being high but I personally stay away from these. So do check the label and make sure it does not contain THC.
10. Book A Massage
I don’t think anyone needs an excuse to get a massage but the good news is that it can decrease the negative reactions of crossing time zones. It might be a given that getting a massage can be relaxing but if not, I promise it is!
Massage is a natural remedy for your body to recover faster from the nuances of jet lag. Like some of the other tips mentioned, massage helps to reset and balance your sleeping patterns (circadian rhythm).
There are various types of massage, but for the most part, getting a massage will increase circulation by pumping blood to all areas of the body.
This is much needed as you are likely sore and stiff from that long flight and/or car ride. And who doesn’t need a helping hand at getting the blood flowing again!
I don’t know about you but I have the stiffest back, knees, and neck after sitting for hours. To reduce the effects of jet lag, a massage will remove toxins that might have built up. It will leave you relaxed, energized, and a welcome balance your body needs.
Note: Many massages incorporate the use of essential oils and CBD oil, so opt to say yes to them if offered!
Before you even leave on your trip, work on getting plenty of rest the week before you leave. The more rested you are going into the crossing of time zones, the easier it will be. If you will be traveling West, try staying up an hour longer the days before traveling and go to bed one hour earlier if heading East.
Whether you are heading to a much-needed vacation or heading home, you don’t want to be cranky and exhausted. To successfully fight jet lag, try to incorporate some or all of these jet lag remedies. That way you can alleviate the symptoms associated with jet lag and have a great trip!
Looking For More Travel Tips?
My post contains affiliate links and as an Amazon Associate, I may receive a small commission if you click a link and purchase through that link. It won’t cost anything to you to use these links but is very much appreciated. Thank you!