How to Beat Jet Lag

Follow these tips to combat jet lag and get the most of your trip from start to finish.

Jet Lag is the term that describes how your body feels when you travel over multiple time zones. The most common symptoms of jet lag include tiredness during the day, inability to sleep at night, loss of appetite and irritability. It can take your body up to 24 hours to adjust for each time zone you cross, so here are a few suggestions for minimizing the effects of jet lag.

Before you fly

Try to adjust your sleeping and eating times an hour or two towards your destination. If you’re traveling west, eat and sleep later in the day, if you’re traveling east do these things a bit earlier.

In order to avoid contracting an illness while flying it is a good idea to start taking a multivitamin a few days before your flight. As always, consult with your physician before taking any new supplements. Pack some sugar-free chewing gum and a saline nasal spray too, these will keep your sinuses moist and help you to avoid catching a cold.

During your flight

Traveling to Europe involves a lengthy transatlantic flight so it is important to make it as comfortable as possible to help avoid jet lag.

  • Wear loose and comfortable clothing

  • Leave room under the seat in front of you so you can stretch your legs

  • Take off your shoes while sitting. If you’re among those whose feet swell during flight, wear shoes you can put back on easily

  • Don’t cross your legs as this will cut off your circulation

  • After your flight takes off, adjust your watch. Try to sleep and eat according to the time of your destination
  • Stay hydrated by drinking lots of water and avoiding alcohol

During your flight, try to sleep according to the time of your destination.

It is easy to become dehydrated while flying. One of the easiest things to do to avoid this is to drink plenty of water and juice. Try to avoid alcohol and carbonated beverages as they can dehydrate you and make your jet lag worse.

Pressurized cabins can affect your gastro-intestinal system. Dehydration and lack of activity can often result in post-flight constipation. To minimize the chance of experiencing irregularity avoid eating gas-producing foods before the flight, pack high fiber snacks and eat light meals on-board the plane.

Move around as much as possible to keep up your circulation. Blood clots are a serious health threat on long flights. Force yourself to get up and move around the cabin on a regular basis. If you are drinking plenty of water, this shouldn’t be a problem as you will need to get up and use the restroom regularly. It’s also a good idea to flex your legs and rotate your ankles while seated and if you have a layover spend it walking through the airport.

If you are taking an overnight flight you will want to try to sleep on a schedule to match your destination. While it can be difficult to get good sleep on a plane, it is good to remember that resting with your eyes closed is 70-80% as effective as real sleep, so even a short nap will make a big difference in your recovery time.

An eye mask and ear plugs can allow you to rest peacefully during the flight. Ear plugs also prevent tinnitus, the ear ringing many people experience following hours of roaring engine noise. A neck pillow will help prevent neck pain and encourage sleep. A neck pillow can also help keep your head from bobbing as you fall asleep. Self-adhesive heating pads provide continuous warmth to relieve back pain, stiff neck and aching shoulders.

On vacation

Try adjusting to local time as soon as possible. Remain active and wait for a normal bedtime before falling asleep. If you do nap only do so for 30 minutes, any longer will make your jet lag worse. If it’s daytime when you arrive at your destination, spend as much time outside as you can. The exposure to sunlight will help your brain adjust to the new time zone. Let the adrenaline rush of being in a foreign place keep you awake until after supper time.

Having a high protein breakfast will help with alertness. Also exercise, like a brisk walk, will get your blood flowing and make you feel more awake. Exercising in the evening, a few hours before bed, will also help to tire you out so that you sleep better.

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