Have you ever flown across multiple time zones to some exciting, far-off destination, only to hit a jet lag wall upon arrival? Instead of excitedly exploring a new place, you spend the first couple of days dragging around and falling asleep in mid-afternoon.
I know how it goes. I’ve been there many times, and I’m not much of a fan of the experience. Still, as somebody who loves to travel, it’s just one of those things I have to deal with from time to time.
Thankfully, there are a few things we can all do to adjust to the new time zone more quickly and get on to that exciting exploration we were looking forward to so much. Here’s a plan of action:
The first thing you need to know is that the direction in which you are traveling will make a difference in how jet lag will impact you.
Will you be traveling East or West? I’ve found that traveling East tends to be a little more difficult than traveling West, at least for me. If you’re traveling East and you want to adapt to your new time zone, you’re going to need to go to bed earlier than usual and wake up earlier than usual. If you’re traveling West, you’re going to need to start waking up later than you usually do and going to bed later than you usually do. This is called advancing and delaying your body clock and you can start working on it before your trip begins by adjusting your time little by little leading up to the trip. Of course, things like having to be up at a certain time to go to work will only allow you to do it so much, and also it’s important to note that you’ll only be able to do it so much depending on how many time zones away you are traveling (it’s a lot easier to get ready for a two time zones jump than a nine time zones jump).
Make sure you are well rested before your journey.
It is important to be well-rested before you go on your trip. Traveling can be tiresome, and changing time zones will wear you out even more. If you start your journey exhausted, you’re going to have a tough time bouncing back when you arrive in your destination.
Reset your clock immediately.
If you have a watch, reset it for the new time zone immediately upon boarding your flight. This will help you keep track of what time it is at your destination so you can try to follow the schedule there. For instance, if it’s midnight over there, try to get a little rest. If it’s noon at your destination, try to stay awake. If you are like me and use your phone to keep track of the time rather than a watch, there are apps and settings on your phone for tracking multiple time zones. In the iPhone, I like to use the World Clock. However you do it, the important thing is immediately working to adjust to the new time zone.
Drink plenty of fluids to avoid being dehydrated.
This will help your body adjust to the new rhythms.
Control your sleep!
When you arrive, the temptation will be to check into your hotel room and immediately pass out in bed for 8 hours. I advise against this unless you’re arriving in the evening. Instead, try to stay awake until a reasonable bedtime in your destination. Going to bed early is fine, but going to bed at 1pm will not help you adjust to the new time zone. If you’re so absolutely exhausted that you just can’t keep your eyes open, it’s ok to take a one hour power nap, but set an alarm and force yourself to get up after that hour. The quicker you can adjust to the new time zone, the easier your trip will be.
Daylight can help reset your internal clock. Utilize it!
Keep the curtains open to your hotel room so that natural morning sunlight can shine through. Set your alarm for morning and make sure to get out of bed, even if it feels like you’re waking from the dead, and go on a walk outside in the daylight. This will help immensely. Don’t schedule anything too strenuous for that first day in town as you’ll be tired and still adjusting. Instead, wake up and go on a leisurely walk around to get your bearings. Maybe hang out by the pool and have a leisurely lunch. Ease into it.
Stay well-rested while you’re away.
This means to make sure you get a solid 8 hours of sleep each night. No burning the candle at both ends.
Schedule some time after you get home to readjust.
This one is more important the farther afield you traveled, and especially if you traveled West and now must come East to get home. When I visited Australia from my home in Southern California, I found that when I arrived in Australia I woke up early and was ready to get out and explore nice and early, but when I got home I was completely thrown off, falling asleep at 1pm and waking up at 10pm. I was so happy I had flown home on a Thursday and had taken that Friday off of work so I had Friday and the weekend to recover somewhat before heading back into work on Monday. It’s not always possible to take extra time off of work, but if you are able to do so at all, it is extremely beneficial.