Skip Jet Lag With These Expert-Approved Healthy Tips
The bane of any long-distance traveler's journey: jet lag. It comes in waves—some soft, some so strong you are forced to reach for a third espresso or take a midday nap. And there's nothing more frustrating than being in a new location, excited to explore, and yet feeling too tired to do so.
And the most common advice is to power through the first few days to get on your new time zone and sleep schedule—which is solid advice! It's what I always do!—but that doesn't help the logistics of the matter. Changing your sleep schedule is hard and often makes you feel exhausted. So here, some hacks to make you less sleepy along the way.
Drink plenty of water—starting the night before.
You likely know that flying, especially over long flights, dries you out. So one of the best things you can do is to start hydrated from the get-go. Even the night before you leave, up your water intake. Then, as you are en route to the airport, as low-waste expert and nutritionist Abby K. Cannon, J.D., R.D., tells us, challenge yourself to drink your entire (reusable, duh) water bottle. That way you can bring it through TSA and then refill it inside for your flight. To stay hydrated the rest of the journey, read our other tips here.
Turns out, it helps to be a germaphobe.
A little jet lag is unavoidable, sure (your body is adjusting to a new time zone, after all). But one thing that will absolutely make it worse? Catching a cold on your flight.
"Our immune system starts with our nose. The purpose of the nose is to filter, warm, and moisten air before it enters our body. Each breath draws a gas, nitric oxide, from our sinuses and carries it into our lungs. Nitric oxide is our natural immune protection against respiratory infection as it kills virus, bacteria, and fungus," says Steven Olmos, DDS, who is board-certified in chronic pain and sleep-related breathing disorders. When our nasal passages dry out from air travel, we are more likely to catch a cold because we've lost our first line of defense.
And, really, you don't even really need to get sick for this to interrupt your sleeping patterns. When our nose gets dry, we'll often switch to breathing through our mouth during sleep: "Mouth breathing causes more arousals in sleep and leads to daytime fatigue," he says.
Try a natural nasal treatment, which can keep your nasal paths healthy. Xlear is a hyperosmotic saline solution with a natural sweetener that kills viruses and bacteria. And it comes in kids' versions too!
Skip the music, and try this app.
Whether you're on the plane or at your hotel trying to sleep, you might be tempted to reach for your favorite "relaxing" playlist or turn on a white noise machine. They might be better than nothing, but if you really want to induce a solid night's rest, Pzizz is probably the best app on the market right now. It works by creating "dreamscapes," which are basically long, poetic music/story mixes. They use methods based on clinical studies of sleep hypnosis, progressive relaxation, breathing exercises, and storytelling. And their algorithm mixes different ones together each night, so each experience is unique, making it effective long term.
When you land, go for a walk.
After sitting on a long flight, you need to get your body moving right away. It will help loosen up your muscles and establish yourself in a new location. Krista Stryker, trainer and founder of 12-Minute Athlete, says her No. 1 piece of advice is to take a 20- to 30-minute walk when you arrive to get some fresh air.
Adjust the blue light on your phone.
We know from significant research that blue light, whether from the outdoors or our screens, signals alertness. Well, you can dim blue lights on your phones, tablets, and screens through settings (Google how to do it). This way, if you find yourself tossing and turning at night—and, ahem, checking your phone while doing so—you're not setting yourself back even further by telling your brain it should be awake.
When all else fails, use it to your advantage.
Personally, I don't think time changes are all that bad. Yes, they are annoying when you hit an early slump or can't seem to fall asleep well past your bedtime. But if you just change your mindset, you can really use them to your advantage.
This is just my personal tip, as someone who loves to travel and is decidedly not a morning person. Use the time change, whichever way, to help you encourage healthy morning habits. My home base is in New York, so when I travel to Los Angeles, for example, I always get up with my body clock, which is always earlier than my scheduled meetings or plans, and will hit up a local yoga spot. Or, I'll use that time to enjoy a cup of coffee and enjoy some quiet time—something I never seem to do when home. Then, when I come back, I'll keep the habit up as long as possible. (With time, I'll usually revert to my nighttime yoga schedule, but it's lovely while it lasts!) Or if I'm traveling home from Europe, I'll use my newfound early rising schedule to my advantage at home. I'll make a proper breakfast for myself, go for a walk, or get some work done.