How to beat jet lag is something that’s absolutely worth every traveller having in their bag of tricks, especially so you can make the most of your travels. Alas, it’s also one that, can sometimes prove the trickiest to master. (*Tricky but not impossible! 😉)
A little over a week ago, I was in the throes of what has got to be the worst jet lag I’ve ever experienced. Ironically, I did everything I could (within reason) to try to pre-empt it and avoid it.
I upgraded my plane tickets so I could sleep on the long-haul flights, I tried changing my sleeping patterns a few days before so I could arrive on the local sleeping pattern, I cleared out a whole day for sleeping (and intermittent TV watching) to help me rest from all the travelling and yet, I still ended up being well and truly jet lagged.
That particular stream of jet lag was so strange in that it followed no pattern. Usually when I’m jet-lagged, I get tired at specific times of the day – usually, at times I would normally go to bed in my previous time zones. With this one – I would end up sleeping at 3am, waking up at 8am, then falling asleep at 11.30am (27.5 hours later), waking up at 8pm and then going to bed at 1am and waking up at 4am. It was ridiculous!
It also kinda made sense. After a month in Canada, I’d been in the UK for a few days and then moved on to Thailand for over a week. There was almost a 14 hour time difference between where we were in Canada and Thailand. jet lag like that was always bound to be awkward.
Suffice to say, I’d let all my ‘seasoned’ jet lag experience escape me for those few days and just tried to ‘wing it’. It wasn’t until I consciously sat down and planned to deal with it that I finally managed to wrangle myself out of jet lag and into ‘regular time’.
With the reminder of how terrible jet lag can truly be, I just wanted to share with you a few things to help you fight your jet lag when it happens to you.
1.) Set yourself a routine.
This is probably the best thing to help you get out of your jet lag funk.
Don’t get me wrong, having to go to work on a Monday morning after a 2-week vacation in Hawaii/The Maldives/Insert-Your-Dream-Destination-Here might not be something you’re looking forward to but it actually does help force you back into a routine.
This helps you set boundaries for your sleep and gets your right back on track. Just a bit of a heads up – this will involve a few days of feeling absolutely knackered so it’s not enough to do just on its own. There are a few extra things below to do in addition to having this routine.
2.) Stay awake as long as you possibly can in your current time zone and then sleep for as long as you can when you go to bed.
It’s as simple as that really. If you arrive in the evening/late at night – it’s pretty easy. Just go to bed straight away. Chances are you’ll be tired from your travel anyway.
If you arrive in the morning/afternoon, well then you better find yourself the strongest coffee possible, strap on your walking shoes and head out exploring till later that evening.
Don’t worry, with this second scenario, you are allowed to go to bed ‘early-ish’ (this meaning anytime from around 8pm). You’ll be so knackered by the time you go to bed that you’ll end up sleeping for much longer than normal and not only wake up refreshed, you’ll also wake up bright and early in the morning – fresh and ready to explore the destinations you’re in!
3.) Know that it will take some effort somewhere.
No point pretending that beating jet lag is easy. It really isn’t.
Caffeinate if you have (perhaps more so when you get back home on your normal routine). Go on long walks to stay awake if you have to. Sit in an upright chair instead of cosying up in bed if you need to. Point is, jet lag won’t just ‘go away’ itself.
It will take some effort on your part to have to get rid of it and the sooner you recognise and allow for this, the sooner you start to get rid of it.
4.) Sleep as much as possible.
The most frustrating symptom of jet lag has got to be the constant tiredness that follows you around either from getting too little sleep or from your body feeling like you need to get to sleep.
Whatever the cause is, be sure to leave yourself with ample time to sleep. This is no time no curtail on sleep (which sounds contradictory to the 2nd point above but actually isn’t – the 2nd point above involves postponing sleep till appropriate, not cutting it short).
Also, when it all boils down to it – your body needs sleep for you to function properly. You are so much better off being well rested but in the wrong time zone (sleep-wise) than being in the right time zone and being constantly exhausted all the time.
5.) Give yourself time to get over it.
When you arrive wherever you’re going – especially so when you get back home, set aside a few days to help you deal with jet lag.
Don’t try rushing back to work the very next day after you’ve been halfway across the world for 2 weeks. I know this one might be a trickier one to muster – due to having limited holiday time off work but wherever possible, factor this into your plans and leave yourself with a couple of days after you get back home (depending on how extreme the time difference is) to rest and fight your jet lag – or even just to sleep properly before you throw yourself fully into your daily routine.