Overcoming jet lag

2 08 2011

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Overcoming jet lag does not have to be complex. First, understand the difference between jet lag and being tired. A long travel day is likely to be exhausting just because of the change in routine and the stress & hassle associated with air travel. That’s not jet lag, though.

Jet lag comes into play when you’ve traveled across multiple time zones in a relatively short period of time. Your body behaves as if it’s still operating on your home time. If you live in the Eastern United States and travel to London, United Kingdom, your body will be off by five hours. So, when it’s time for bed at 11pm, your body is telling you it’s time for dinner (or cocktails, maybe).

The key to overcoming jet lag is to put your body on a sleep/wake cycle that fits with the local destination. Ideally, you schedule your travel so that you arrive in the evening at your new destination. When you arrive, head to your hotel, check-in, then grab dinner and get to bed. Avoid caffeine and alcohol, both of which have stimulating effects and interfere with sleep.

The first night in your new destination: get a good night’s rest and wake up in accordance with your typical wake-up time at home. Continue your normal sleep/wake cycle throughout the trip and you’ll minimize jet lag’s effects.

If you can’t arrive in the evening and must arrive in the morning or afternoon at your destination, fight the urge to take a nap. Instead, take a shower and change into clean clothes after you arrive. Get out into the daylight and take a stroll around town or take in a museum or interactive attraction. When fatigue sets in, visit a restaurant or cafe for physical nourishment. Stay hydrated and minimize caffeine and alcohol intake.

Use your first travel day for mental nourishment, too: watch the world go by while sitting on a park bench, or read your guide to the city and plan your itinerary or route. If you take pictures, start photographing! It’s time to immerse yourself in your new locale.

After a full day, have an early dinner and go to bed early. It’s better to overcome jet lag on the first day with an early bedtime rather than sleeping in on day two. Again, stay true to your normal sleep/wake cycle and get yourself on it as quickly as possible.

Throughout your journey, keep yourself on a normal schedule as much as possible. And, for your return, follow the same general guidelines: arrive home in the evening so you can go to bed straight away or, stay up all day and go to bed early if you arrive in the morning or afternoon.

Do you have other tips to share on how to overcome jet lag? Leave a comment below. Safe travels!

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