I just finished the four long flights (4 x 13 hours) that it takes to get to Australia and back, and after landing back in New York, I thought it might be handy if I gave my top tips for getting through jet lag quickly.
1. Drink water
So some of these tips are going to be boring, and what you’ve read before, I know, but: water. Water, water, water. Planes are dry, air-conditioned, gross-tubes and you need to stay hydrated. It not only will make you feel, well, hydrated, but it will also help with the transition in time zones, locations, and overall sanity.
On most international flights, you will be offered a drink early with your first meal, so use that to have a soda water with ice (ooh how exciting, fizzy, cold H20). You will then be offered a small bottle and/or lots of cups of water throughout the flight. If you are awake and see that person with that tray, take a cup of water and gulp it down. If you wake up and haven’t had anything for half an hour, then go ring that little dinger button and get yourself another bottle!
Sometimes you’ll think “I don’t want any more water” but that’s just your mind playing tricks on you, have another cup!
2. Avoid caffeine & alcohol
Booooooo! But Josh, free drinks! I KNOW! But it’s not working in your favor. Caffeine is a stimulant and alcohol is a depressant. If you keep taking these uppers and downers, your poor body (which is already under a fair bit of stress) just doesn’t know what to do.
If I’m super boring, stay off the sugary sodas too as you’re going to be on that plane for some time and sugar didn’t get better for you just because you’re at 32,000 feet.
Stick to the water from #1.
Author’s note: … God I’m boring on international flights.
3. Go easy on the food
JUST WHEN YOU THOUGHT IT COULDN’T GET ANY MORE BORING!
So the food on flights is extra salty, because up in the sky with all that delicious recycled air, your taste buds are a bit wonky. They add extra salt to make sure you can actually taste it, but that’s not doing you any favors.
Not to mention, your gut is basically inactive while you’re sitting on the flying, space tube, so the amount of meals you get is WAY too many. Don’t be afraid to say no to a meal or two, your gut will thank you.
Bonus tip: Take some unsalted nuts, or chew on a sponge filled with water… Ok, maybe just the nuts.
4. Adjust timezones as early as you can
Especially if you’re headed out on holidays, you will want to be on your A-game immediately after you land, and that’s going to be difficult. The best thing you can do though is operate as if you’re already in the timezone you’re headed for, as quickly as possible.
For some directions and distances this is going to be especially difficult but for example, if you get on a plane at 9pm local time, and your destination is currently at 12pm, then think about what might be best for when you arrive. Plan your trip around when you’ll be going to sleep, what you’ll be doing when you arrive, and try your absolute hardest not to just fall asleep at the wrong time.
If it’s a shorter hop, then try going to bed early/late in the preceding days to be good and ready!
Turn off the automatic timezones on your phone and set the clock to your destination so you know what day of the month it is.
5. Be careful of naps
I don’t nap, but if you’re into that kind of thing, then embrace it.
If you’ve got some long hours before bedtime then you will want to consider a light nap of 30 minutes, maybe even an hour, but absolutely nothing more.
If it’s 6:30pm and you’re finding it tough, then I would argue that you should tough it out and pin your eyelids open instead. YOU CAN DO THIS! Don’t go to bed before 9:30pm. Or you’ll be re-reading this article at 4am.
6. Let there be (natural) light
As soon as you arrive at your destination, spend as much time as you possibly can outside or in brightly lit rooms. The natural light is especially good for you and will dramatically improve your mood and energy levels.
There are even cool apps about the place like Entrain which can help you know what kind of light you need, and when, to match your internal rhythm!
7. Drugs are good… mmk
If you’re REALLY not coping and life is flashing before your very eyes, consider some melatonin:
Dr. Czeisler said that a melatonin supplement can help quiet the brain and silence the signal that you need to be awake; he recommended taking it in your new time zone a half-hour or so before you want to go to sleep.
Oh and don’t forget by the way to keep setting alarms for about a week after you arrive in your destination to wake up at the right time. If your body is anything like mine, it will sneakily try and reset back after you let your guard down, a week later.
Alright, that’s it.
TLDR: Be more boring, sleep more, embrace sunshine and water.