WTF is jet lag?
Excellent and appropriate question, my friend. It’s pretty much just a temporary sleep disorder that’s caused by crossing time zones. The more time zones you cross, the worse it’s likely to be. It can take anywhere from a couple of days, right up to nine or 10 days to recover from it and, usually, it’s worse when you ‘lose time’ travelling. My gosh, can you imagine how bad Marty McFly’s jet lag was?!
Jet Lag is caused by the sudden change in our sleep patterns and that rhythm in our body that helps us fall asleep and wake up at certain times. Basically, it’s because our body clock gets all messed up on us. On top of this, you’re confined to a small space for a long period of time and you’re in a pressurised cabin, which just makes you feel dehydrated and really uncomfortable. All of these things combine to create the perfect storm: Jet Lag.
But what can you do about it? Well, truth is there’s no magical cure to avoid getting it at all. But there are things you can do to help minimise the effect and speed up your recovery time. Here are few of my top tips on how to not let jet lag make you it’s bitch.
Tips for recovering from jet lag, like a boss!
1. Be healthy
There’s a strong theory that the healthier you are, the faster your jet lag recovery time will be. So, exercise regularly, eat healthily and drink lots of water. Avoid sugary, fatty foods and keep your food intake simple, clean and healthy. If you can, do a big workout the day before your long-haul flight and another, lighter workout the day of the flight. Something like a really big walk could be a great option. When you arrive at your destination, light exercise may help you recover by getting your body moving and bringing endorphins and fresh oxygenated blood into the system. But just remember, you’re exhausted and dehydrated, so strenuous activity might not be the best idea.
2. Adapt before you go
In the lead up to your trip, start adjusting your bedtime. Each night, move your bedtime 30 minutes earlier or 30 minutes later, depending on the time zone you’re travelling to. If you do this in the week leading up to your trip you’ll find it that bit easier to adjust to the new time zone as it won’t be such a rude shock to your body clock. Moving your meal times will also help!
3. BYO pillow
This is one of my top tips for getting sleep on a plane. If I’m flying long haul I always bring my own pillow because those tiny little squares of fluff they give you are never, ever big enough. Seriously, they could be a pillow for my cat. Bringing your own pillow will give you more chance of getting some shut-eye on the flight, especially if you can nab a window seat. Not only will it be more comfy, but your pillow will have those familiar smells of home on it. For bonus points, put a few drops of lavender on your pillow case, it’s naturally soothing and calming.
4. Stay fresh on the flight
I always pack a small bag of in-flight essentials. I take regular trips to the bathroom to freshen up, which really helps me mentally as it stops that gross plane feeling taking over. My bag contains mouthwash, a tooth-brush and tooth paste, face wash and moisturizer, lip-balm and eye drops. I also always pack comfortable clothes to sleep in, a fresh outfit and two pairs of undies. Before I ‘got to sleep’ on the plane I get into my sleeping outfit, wash my face and brush my teeth etc. When I ‘wake up’ I get into my clean outfit and repeat the process of freshening up. I also freshen up in my seat a lot, using make-up wipes to get that layer of plane grime off my face. It may just be mental, but it helps me feel normal!
5. Get to your destination early
If you have to be somewhere for work and need to have your game face on, rather than being a walking, talking zombie, arrive at your destination two or three days early. It’ll give you time to gently, thoroughly recover from your jet lag with lots of sleep and rest before you have to be ‘on’ and talking to clients.
Yes, yes we all know this one. Drink lots of water. Sure, but do you actually do it? It can be hard when all you’ve got is those little half-full plastic cups coming around every so often. The flight attendants are usually very busy and don’t have time to fill up plastic cups of water for you every 20 minutes. Instead, pack an empty water bottle in your carry-on and choose a certain amount to drink each hour. When it’s empty, get up and go for a walk to refill it at the flight attendant station. As tempting as it may be, it’s really important you avoid drinking booze on and before the flight. It’s also important to avoid coffee too, sorry!
7. Keep moving
It’s really easy to get deep into a movie marathon on those long-haul flights because all you want to do is get it over with! But, it really is important you keep your body moving. Do an in-seat stretching routine every hour on the hour and get up and go for a walk to stretch your legs every so often.
8. Change your clocks
As soon as you get on that plane you should change your clocks to the time at your destination. It will help you, mentally, start the process of adjusting to the new time zone. While you’re on the plane try your best to adapt your normal routine to this new time by observing bed times etc.
9. Block it all out
When it comes time to sleep on the plane, do what you can to block out distractions. An eye mask, noise-cancelling headphones or ear plugs, your pillow, a comfy blanket, these can all be helpful tools to get you some much-needed rest. One trick I’ve learned is to create a sleep playlist on my iPod and listen to it in bed before I go away, eventually my brain starts to associate sleep with this playlist and when I hear it, I know it’s sleep times. Putting on this playlist when I’m trying to sleep on the plane can really help me get to sleep by giving me a sense of routine and normality.
10. Reconnect with yourself and the Earth
After you arrive, I recommend getting outdoors as soon as possible. Find a spot outside with fresh air, grass under your feet, trees all around, a beach… anything, just find somewhere you can take your shoes off and sink your feet into the sand or onto the Earth. Sit comfortably and breath in the fresh air. If you know how, this is the time to do some meditation or a few key yoga poses. I honestly believe taking this time to ground yourself makes all the difference. Your body instinctively knows how to sync to the rhythm of the Universe, so it’s a great idea to take the time to allow it to do this.
11. Crash out
If you arrive during the day, do your very best to stay awake until an appropriate sleep time. When it’s time to go to sleep, take a nice warm shower or bath beforehand to relax your body, drink a cup of chamomile tea if you can, have a big drink of water and climb into bed for a much-needed rest. Bonus points for putting a few drops of lavender in your bath to help relax and soothe.
At the end of the day, there are a million things you can try or take to help you recover from jet lag. If you have a system that works for you, go with it! There’s a lot of conflicting advice out there, so it’s important you listen to your body and do what’s right for you and what works.
Phoebe Lee is a writer, award-winning blogger and travel lover sharing helpful travel tips, insight and reviews for regular people. Follow her adventures at home and around the world, right here on Little Grey Box and on Instagram, Facebook and YouTube.