If you’re a frequent flyer, you know the feeling. Your plane lands and you’re full of anticipation and excitement after a long flight to your dream overseas destination. Or, you’re just arriving back home after a long trip, and it’s time to get back to your normal routine. Except you are dog tired, your stomach hurts, and your headaches. It feels like you’re hungover… except you’re not. It’s jet lag! But, don’t worry… we have some tips to help you recover from your travels so you can get back to living your life.
Guest Post by Donna Maurer
Why the jet lag?
Preventing the symptoms of travel-related fatigue is a lot simpler when you know what causes them in the first place. The human body is naturally programmed to do things according to a specific schedule, including sleeping and eating. This built-in schedule is called the circadian rhythm. When we travel through different time zones, these rhythms are disrupted, which plays havoc with our body’s systems and causes extreme fatigue, focus issues, loss of appetite, indigestion, and sometimes even insomnia.
These symptoms are pretty typical for travellers, especially when you’re flying east through two or more time zones. Switching up your nights and days can really confuse your circadian rhythm, and the more time zones you cross, the worse the symptoms get. Whenever you’re going to be travelling long distances, plan on allowing some extra time to adjust to the time difference. Giving your body a chance to adapt to the new sleep-wake cycle is crucial for a quicker recovery.
But, what else can you do to get over the hump when returning from a trip? Here are our top 11 tips!
Adjust Your Sleep/Wake Schedule Before You Even Leave
If you’re prone to exhaustion, headaches, and insomnia after a long flight, there are some things you can do to get a handle on these symptoms before your plane even takes off. Symptoms are worse when you’re flying east, so if you flew west to your destination without any issues, don’t be surprised if things are much worse on the return trip. When you fly west, your body is fooled into thinking the days are getting longer, but when you head east, it believes it’s time to prepare for shorter days.
One of the best things you can do to fight jet lag symptoms is to adapt your body to the time change gradually, starting a few days before your flight. If you’re going to be flying east, go to sleep earlier than usual and get up earlier than usual, increasing the time gradually as your trip gets closer. On the other hand, if you’ll be flying west, stay awake a little later and get up a little later, gradually increasing the time until you’ve compensated for the time difference at your destination.
Think About Arrival Times
Consider your arrival time carefully when you’re booking your flight, too. Avoid a morning arrival whenever possible because you’ll have to get through an entire day before you can get some sleep. Shoot for a late afternoon or evening arrival instead. That way you can get settled in, grab a shower, have some dinner… and then just crash at a normal time for your new time zone.
Re-Set Your Watch
Your transition to the new time zone should begin as soon as your flight takes off. As soon as you get settled into your seat, re-set your watch to the time at your destination and try to stay awake during your regular waking hours. If it’s daytime at your new destination, it may be hard to stay awake on the plane, especially if the lights are dimmed, so be sure to bring a book or some other entertainment to keep you awake. Of course, if it’s nighttime where you’re going, you’re in luck… you can sleep while you’re in the air!
Give Melatonin a Try
Sometimes it can be hard to fall asleep and stay asleep when you’re adjusting to a new time zone. Melatonin is a safe, all-natural way to overcome jet lag insomnia. This hormone is produced by your brain naturally, and it tells your body when it’s time to go to sleep. You can get it in supplement form and take .5 mg about an hour before bedtime to help your body combat travel-related insomnia.
Think About What You’re Eating
Many people don’t consider the fact that what they’re eating can actually influence their jet lag, but this is often the case. Whether you’re in the air or on the ground, consider your food choices carefully. For example, burgers, pasta, potatoes, and rice are all carbohydrate-rich foods that will make you feel sleepy… perfect for when you’re flying east, but not so great if you’re flying west. When you’re travelling to a western destination, choose lighter foods like salads, fruits, and veggies. Protein is also essential for energy and helping you stay awake, so have some meat, fish, eggs, or beans, but don’t overdo it or you’ll get the exact opposite effect you’re going for.
Proper Hydration is Essential
Drink lots of water to keep yourself hydrated while you’re travelling because the air on airplanes tends to be very dry. Avoid alcohol because it can just exacerbate your jet lag. Although a glass of wine may help you fall asleep, it won’t last long, and you’ll probably wake up feeling worse than when you started. The same goes for coffee… it may perk you up for a while, but it will wear off quickly, and it’s not worth the crash. Alcohol and caffeine are both dehydrating, too, which just makes you feel worse. Choose hydrating juice or water instead of coffee or alcohol.
Consider IV Hydration Therapy
Sometimes, drinking lots of water just isn’t enough. “One of the primary causes of fatigue after a long trip is dehydration and lack of essential nutrients,” says Dr. Miriam Rahav at Rahav Wellness, whose All-Nighter IV Blend is specially formulated with the fluids and other nutrients needed for energy, focus, and faster recovery. IV hydration therapy can significantly reduce the recovery time after long trips by giving you a boost of essential nutrients like magnesium, B vitamins, and glutathione, as well as fluids and electrolytes. According to Dr. Rahav, an IV drip can relieve headaches, fatigue, and other symptoms of jet lag almost immediately.
Plan a Stopover During Long Haul Flights
If your schedule and budget allow for it, plan a stopover during a long-haul flight. When you’re traveling a long distance to somewhere like New Zealand, Australia, or Asia, for example, getting a good night’s sleep in a real bed to break up your flight can really do wonders for managing jet lag related travel symptoms.
You could stay a night or two in a beautiful city along your route. Spend a little time exploring, shopping, and enjoying the local food before you continue your journey. It will help you adjust to the time change much more easily, and you’ll have the added pleasure of seeing another cool city along the way. As an added bonus, building a stopover might even reduce the price of your airfare because many airlines discount multi-stop flights.
Adjust Your Environment
While you can’t control everything that’s going on around you, there are some things you can do to help yourself fall asleep or stay awake during and after a long flight. For example, melatonin production is inhibited by sunlight. Since melatonin is the hormone that tells your body to go to sleep, you can take advantage of it by making things light or dark, depending on what you’re trying to accomplish. If you’re trying to stay awake on your flight, leave the light on. If you’re trying to sleep, make things as dark as possible. Fresh air can also help you fight fatigue and stay awake, so try taking a little walk if you need to perk up.
Don’t Take a Sleeping Pill
As tempting as it may be, when you’re suffering from jet lag related insomnia, avoid taking sleeping pills. They only last for a short time, and they’ll confuse your body’s sleep/wake patterns even more. Try some of the other tips we’ve mentioned instead, like taking melatonin and darkening the room. Put in some earplugs to drown out noise or listen to an audiobook or some relaxing music. These techniques are better in the long run because they’ll help your body adjust to the time difference more quickly.
Give Yourself a Few Days to Adjust
Once you reach your destination or get home from a long trip, give your body a few days to adjust to the new time schedule. Take a little time to lay by the pool, order some take-out, and catch up on your favourite show… keep everything relaxed and stress-free. Jet lag and long flights are hard on the body, so it needs some time to recover.
Unfortunately, there’s no way to know how long you’ll be affected by travel-related fatigue and other symptoms after a long flight. Some people never experience issues at all, while others need several days to recover. The good news is, our tips will reduce the effects and help you recover much more quickly so life can get back to normal.