We’ve heard people say that it takes one day to recover for every time zone you pass through. For international travelers who zip across eight or nine time zones, does that mean you’re doomed to spend most of your trip struggling to overcome jet lag-induced fatigue?
Of course not! We’ve compiled advice and tips from our expert guides on how to kick jet lag to the curb and start enjoying your trip from day one!
Start Before You Leave Home
Some people recommend setting your watch to your new timezone a few days before you leave. We don’t typically go that far, but we have found that thinking ahead can make a huge difference.
Adjusting your sleep schedule by a couple of hours in the week before you leave can help ease the transition. Most importantly, though, is staying well-rested, hydrated, eating right, and avoiding too much stress in the days leading up to your trip.
Making sure that you keep up with a regular exercise routine can help too. If you are training for a trek, make sure that you continue your routine in the weeks and days leading up to your departure. You don’t want to overdo it and be sore right at the start of your adventure, but staying active helps you have more energy to adapt quickly to the time change.
Plan Extra Days to Adjust
It’s crucial to give yourself at least a full day after your flight to relax and adjust. Especially if you are setting off on a big trek, like our Everest Base Camp Trek or a Kilimanjaro Climb, this little bit of extra time and rest can make all the difference.
Plan activities that are interesting and engaging without being too physically demanding. For example, all of our Kilimanjaro climbs have an extra day scheduled in at the beginning, where we take a walking tour of a local village and then spend some time relaxing and getting packed for our adventure.
An added bonus of scheduling yourself an extra day at the start of your adventure is that it gives you a buffer just in case your luggage gets delayed.
Avoid Caffeine and Alcohol
Who doesn’t love taking advantage of the free wine and coffee on international flights? It’s easy to think that a glass of red wine will help you drift off, or that a cup of coffee will get you energized and ready to go before landing.
However, while these substances may feel like they are helping your internal clock on long haul flights, they are doing more harm than good by subtly dehydrating you. We recommend skipping out on the alcohol and caffeine, or at least limiting yourself to one serving of each during the flight. Instead, drink as much water as you can, and make sure to stay hydrated throughout the long flight.
Trade Your Sleeping Pills for Melatonin
Sleeping pills might knock you out for those long haul flights, but they aren’t doing your body any favors. If you feel the need for help falling asleep on a long flight, we suggest natural methods first: earplugs or noise-canceling headphones, an eye mask, and reading instead of watching the in-flight entertainment will all help you wind down and get some shut-eye the natural way.
If you do feel the need for some help falling asleep, melatonin can be effective. It also has the benefit of fewer side effects and of helping your body adjust faster. As always, check with your doctor before taking any new medication.
Get Some Sun
Our bodies are closely attuned to the natural rhythm of day and night. That’s why jet lag, which disrupts that rhythm, can be so difficult to deal with. Sunlight regulates your melatonin levels, which in turn regulates your sleep cycle, so it is one of the best natural “cures” for jet lag.
Getting as much natural sunlight as you (safely) can during your new daytime, and avoiding bright lights and screens at nighttime will help your internal clock start to get a read on your new time zone, and will help you start to adjust and feel ready for your adventure.