When I used to travel to multiple continents multiple times a year, jet lag was a real part of my life and I never really did get used to it. This throwback post is in honor of one of my least favorite aspects of travel... and then some helpful tips on how you can prevent it from being such a drag. Literally.
I remember... before I used to travel through time zones like I was passing through neighborhoods... thinking that jetlag was just feeling a bit tired and sleepy at the wrong time of day. Sure, that’s part of it but that explanation merely scratches the surface. Let me try and explain in better detail…
When you travel to the other side of the globe, you try your best to stay up until normal bedtime. This is a feat in and of itself. Every fiber of your being is telling you to close your eyes and succumb to mother nature, but you fight it and force your eyelids back open after every blink. I’ve been known to play games with myself and treat myself to an extra long blink. Usually this will end up in a 20-minute catnap that I snap out of and have to go splash my face with cold water.
When you finally do get to lay your head down on the pillow, it’s the best feeling in the world. Seriously. It’s like euphoria. You know how sometimes you get a really strong urge to thank God for the little things in life that you tend to overlook? This is one of those moments. I’m usually one of those people who toss and turn and have about 14 internal conversations before I can fall asleep, but nights like these I don’t even remember my head hitting the pillow.
It is the best. Sleep. Ever. And it lasts for probably about 3 hours. 4 if you’re lucky. And it’s not as if you groggily roll over and slowly slit your eyelids to look at the clock. You are wide-awake without the slightest hint of sleepiness in your body. If you try and close your eyes again, you’re simply using way too many eye muscles to keep them shut and your body is telling you it’s futile anyway. You’re up. And you know what else you are? Starving! I’m talking about hunger pains that dig deep into your soul and make funny noises that you want to blame on someone else. I’m a ravenous beast when I wake up from these types of slumbers.
Mornings like these can be the most productive of your life, especially if you aren’t used to being a morning person. I get my best cleaning done and have arrived to the grocery store before it even opened. It’s a good thing too because by late afternoon you are almost a useless human being. The tiredness will hit you like a ton of bricks. Actually, it’s more like the bricks are piled neatly on top of your skull and every 30 minutes another one is added. Oh…and you feel nauseous. You try to outlast your crushing skull and the feelings of dizziness because you know if you just stay strong, you can beat this monster in a couple days and go back to being a productive member of society the whole day through.
Now, here are a couple useful hints I picked up over the years to help the effects of jet lag not be so intense and to pass more quickly.
1. Drink lots of water: A lot of times during flights the tendency is to not drink a lot of water and therefore not have to take multiple trips to a bathroom you'd rather avoid. But, you will feel so much better if you stay hydrated and active on your flight. I would say aim for at least a cup each hour of flying.
2. Stay away from caffeine and alcohol: You may have a great time while flying, but you're going to miserable once you hit the ground.
3. Pretend you're there already: If you are going to be somewhere for a while, it helps if you gradually move your body over to that new time zone beforehand. Try sleeping and eating incrementally closer to the new time zone your body is heading to. This is also how I choose whether I'm going to knock out on the plane.
4. Nap like a cat: If you must shut your eyes and take a nap, make it quick. 20-30 min at the max. Anything more and you have screwed yourself for that night.
5. Pop some pills: I found these all-natural, homeopathic pills that are designed to help with this sort of thing, and I really believed helped me to feel less jet lagged. Perhaps it was a placebo affect, but I'll take that too.
If anyone has has success in using other tips and tricks to beat jet lag, I would love to hear them!