Wednesday, August 2, 2017

Hacks for Conquering Jet Lag

     The day is finally here! With any luck, my family and I will be leaving for Europe later today and arriving sometime on Thursday morning. I'm way too excited for this trip, which really hasn't been helping with the insomnia I've been experiencing this summer. This lack of sleep got me thinking about the joys of jet lag that I'd soon have to face.

     Let me tell you, I've dealt with my fair share of jet lag. Moving across time zones has always been interesting growing up-- I can distinctly remember waking up at 2 am several days in a row after moving from Florida to Hawaii before sixth grade. Fast forward two years, and my family took a vacation to Japan from Hawaii; flying from the second most westerly time zone across the international dateline was particularly nasty and I remember feeling weirded out by the fact that I lived out the same Tuesday twice on our way home.

     You know how you're always supposed to listen to your parents? Well, I probably should've done this, because that whole time, my dad was trying to share jet lag tips with me. As an Air Force pilot, he's spent years flying across the world and jumping time zones. Jet lag is no joke as a pilot because being off your game can jeopardize your safety and the safety of everyone else on the plane, so he's accumulated a lot of tips and tricks over time. Today, I'm sharing some of his tips + my own that will help you arrive at your destination as adjusted and alert as possible.

Before you go
Gradually adjust your sleep and meal times // This tip is probably one of the most effective but also the hardest to fit into your schedule. If you're able to, start shifting your bed time + meal times by an hour for a few days ahead of your trip: one hour earlier if you're flying east, one hour later if you're flying west. Doing this makes your transition less abrupt once you arrive.

Get plenty of rest the night before your departure // There's no substitute for good sleep! I know it's tough to get rest when you're worrying (or excited) about your trip, but do whatever you can to get quality rest. If you want to invest in good sleep, by a bottle of lavender essential oil (I like doTERRA) and rub it on the soles of your feet before bedtime-- I promise you'll sleep like a baby! You can use this little trick for better sleep once you get to your destination, too.

Fly overnight whenever possible // It's always best to arrive in the morning so you won't be tempted to go to bed as soon as you get to your destination. Plus, flying overnight prevents you from losing precious time off to travel because you were going to have to sleep at some point anyways, so you might as well do it while you're getting where you want to be.

On the flight
Adjust your watch/phone as soon as you get on the plane // Set your watch and/or phone to your destination's local time as soon as you get on the plane (don't do it before unless you want to miss your flight!). This is your new timezone, period. While you're flying, you should eat and sleep according to this new timezone.

Avoid alcohol and caffeine on the flight + chug water // Take an empty water bottle in your carry-on and fill it up when you get to the airport (S'well bottles are great for keeping your water super-cold for a full 24 hours); staying hydrated will help you feel less yucky despite the ultra-dry air in the cabin. Don't drink any coffee or alcohol in-flight unless you want to deal with dehydration, jitters, and headaches. Exception: if you're arriving in the morning, a cup of coffee when the beverage cart comes around for the last time isn't the worst idea because it'll help you stay up in your new timezone.

Do whatever it takes to get sleep on the plane // Many people complain that it's impossible to sleep on planes, but I feel like these people are over-exaggerating-- yes, it's not ideal, but there are worse places to sleep. Bring whatever you know you'll need to get to sleep-- I personally sleep with an eye mask every night anyways, so this is an in-flight must-have too, and many other people like using ear plugs in case there's loud passengers. If the time difference is what's preventing you from sleeping, try taking melatonin-- it's pretty cheap at any drugstore and although it's ineffective for general insomnia (I've tried it), it's just the trick for sleep-issues related to schedule changes.
   
Once you arrive
DO NOT GO TO BED... // Stay up until at least 9 pm local time once you get to your destination, no if's, and's, or but's. If you don't stay up, all that effort you made to adjust yourself before then will be lost. And if you traveled west and are now super-wired, it's important that you still try to go to bed at a normal hour.

...but recognize you need a down day // Okay, yes, you're not supposed to go to sleep when you first get to your destination, but realize you're not going to feel 100% the day you arrive. With that in mind, try to avoid planning out a super-intense day if at all possible, and if you're traveling for a big business meeting or interview, consider arriving a day early so you've got plenty of time to adjust and get back to peak performance.

Seek out sunshine // Exposure to sunlight is one of the most powerful, natural ways to reset your internal clock. Blue light is a wavelength of light that tells your brain to stop producing melatonin, a hormone that tells you it's time to sleep (yes, the same melatonin that you can buy supplements of). Usually we talk about blue light negatively because the blue light emitted by electronic screens can cause insomnia, but this same light from the sun will help you feel more alert despite a time change. Once you arrive, try to spend at least an hour outside during daylight or at least seek out some windows if you're indoors.
 
     Do you have any stories about a brutal case of jet lag or tricks to avoid it? Comment below and let me know!

     Thanks for reading,
     Alex


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