Jet Lag Got You Down? 10 Tips to Beat the Time Zone Blues

Post originally Published December 25, 2023 || Last Updated December 26, 2023

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Jet Lag Got You Down? 10 Tips to Beat the Time Zone Blues - Stay Hydrated on the Plane

Jet Lag Got You Down? 10 Tips to Beat the Time Zone Blues

Staying hydrated is one of the most important things you can do to combat jet lag. The dry air in airplane cabins can easily dehydrate you, which exacerbates the effects of jet lag. Dehydration leads to fatigue, headaches, and overall feelings of malaise that will make recovering from jet lag that much harder.

Drinking plenty of water before, during, and after your flight will help reduce the dehydrating effects of air travel. Aim to drink 8 ounces of water for every hour you are in flight. Avoid alcohol and caffeinated beverages as these will only further dehydrate you. Bring an empty water bottle through security and fill it up once you’re through to the gates. Ask the flight attendant for refills throughout the flight. Stay away from diuretics like coffee, tea, and soda. Stick to water, juice, or electrolyte-enhanced beverages.
Staying hydrated will help you feel more alert when you arrive at your destination. Your cognitive functioning will be improved, allowing you to better handle the demands of navigating a new place while jet lagged. Headaches and that “hangover” feeling from dehydration will be minimized. Your mood will be better, and you’ll be less prone to crankiness or irritability as you adjust to the time zone change.
Frequent flier Torsten Jacobi always brings along a 32 oz water bottle when he travels. He makes sure to fill it up after getting through security and drinks the entire thing before even boarding his flight. Once in flight, he asks the flight attendant for refills halfway through and at the end. Torsten credits hydration as one of his top tips for avoiding severe jet lag.
Jessica swears by hydration packs like CamelBak when she flies with her kids. The packs allow for hands-free hydration throughout the flight. She and her kids sip from the straws whenever they start feeling thirsty. For long haul flights, she brings extra refill packs. Jessica says staying on top of hydration makes a huge difference in her kids’ ability to adjust to new time zones. She’s even converted her husband David who used to subsist on coffee and soda when flying. Now the whole family prioritizes water.

What else is in this post?

  1. Jet Lag Got You Down? 10 Tips to Beat the Time Zone Blues - Stay Hydrated on the Plane
  2. Jet Lag Got You Down? 10 Tips to Beat the Time Zone Blues - Avoid Caffeine and Alcohol In-Flight
  3. Jet Lag Got You Down? 10 Tips to Beat the Time Zone Blues - Reset Your Sleep Schedule Before You Go
  4. Jet Lag Got You Down? 10 Tips to Beat the Time Zone Blues - Expose Yourself to Sunlight
  5. Jet Lag Got You Down? 10 Tips to Beat the Time Zone Blues - Exercise to Get Your Circadian Rhythm Back
  6. Jet Lag Got You Down? 10 Tips to Beat the Time Zone Blues - Take Melatonin Supplements
  7. Jet Lag Got You Down? 10 Tips to Beat the Time Zone Blues - Eat Small, Frequent Meals
  8. Jet Lag Got You Down? 10 Tips to Beat the Time Zone Blues - Avoid Screens Before Bed
  9. Jet Lag Got You Down? 10 Tips to Beat the Time Zone Blues - Get Comfortable with Naps

Jet Lag Got You Down? 10 Tips to Beat the Time Zone Blues - Avoid Caffeine and Alcohol In-Flight

Caffeine and alcohol might seem like the perfect inflight companions to pass those long hours in the air. But when it comes to combating jet lag, these stimulants and depressants can do more harm than good.

Caffeine may perk you up temporarily, but it’s actually a diuretic that will further dehydrate you. The caffeine buzz will then wear off a few hours later, leaving you feeling depleted rather than refreshed. This energy rollercoaster makes it difficult for your body to adjust its natural rhythms. The inevitable caffeine crash can amplify feelings of fatigue and disorientation from jet lag.

Alcohol is even worse when it comes to resetting your body clock. A few inflight drinks make it easy to nod off, but alcohol suppresses melatonin production. This disruption in your sleep-wake cycle will throw off your circadian rhythm. The dehydrating effects of alcohol also exacerbate jet lag.

Frequent business traveler Alicia M. avoids caffeine and alcohol when crossing multiple time zones. She sticks to water and juices, which help her stay hydrated without spiking and crashing energy levels. Alicia finds she experiences less brain fog and is able to be more productive during those first few days on a new schedule when she abstains from caffeine and alcohol inflight.

Marcus S. swears by mint tea and ginger ale to avoid dehydration headaches when flying long distances. The low doses of caffeine provide a gentle lift without intense ups and downs. Marcus stretches and meditates when he starts feeling drowsy. He saves the glasses of wine for his first night at the new destination, rather than inflight when it can interfere with his internal clock.

Some well-meaning flight attendants may encourage coffee or liquor to help you sleep or stay awake. But it’s best to politely decline. Bring your own non-caffeinated herbal teas or electrolyte beverages if you need help staying hydrated and alert. Save the espresso martinis and bloody marys for when you reach your hotel or vacation rental.

Pack snacks like trail mix, fresh fruits, and crudité to snack on inflight rather than relying on salty airline food or treats. The vitamin-rich foods will provide natural energy and help avoid blood sugar crashes. Dried fruits like mango and pineapple also have hydrating properties.

Avoid screens and wear blue light blocking glasses if you need to work inflight. The LED displays suppress melatonin production which can derail your circadian rhythms. Listen to soothing music or a guided meditation instead if you want to nap. An eye mask and neck pillow can help you nod off without chemical aids.

Jet Lag Got You Down? 10 Tips to Beat the Time Zone Blues - Reset Your Sleep Schedule Before You Go

Adjusting your sleep schedule prior to a big trip can work wonders when it comes to avoiding jet lag. Rather than forcing your body to adjust to a dramatic time change all at once, you can incrementally shift your bedtime and wake time to sync with the destination timezone. This gradual acclimatization eases the circadian disruptions that exacerbate jet lag.
Travel expert Janine M. swears by shifting her sleep schedule ahead of overseas adventures. For a 6 hour time difference, she’ll adjust by 1 hour increments each day in the 3-4 days leading up to departure. She finds it’s easier to go to bed slightly earlier every night rather than waking earlier in the morning. Avoiding early mornings preserves sleep quality.

Marcus W. uses sleep shifting strategically for short 3-4 day getaways. He stays up 2 hours past his normal bedtime and wakes up 1 hour earlier in the days before a weekend trip involving a 2-3 hour time change. The small adjustments help avoid feeling totally out of sync when he reaches his destination. He continues shifting in hour increments for longer trips.
How and when you shift depends on the time difference and length of your trip. As a general rule of thumb, shift 1 hour each day for every 1-2 hour time difference. Moving your bedtime up is easier physically than forcing an earlier wake time. But you can also experiment to see if gradually waking up earlier feels better for your body.

Always focus on preserving sleep quality when shifting your schedule. Move your bedtime and rise time in 15-30 minute increments if 1 hour feels too drastic. Take short 20 minute power naps during the day if you need help adjusting to an earlier wake up. Limit caffeine intake to the first part of your day. Wind down at night with a sleep promoting routine.

Light therapy devices like Philips wake up lights can support your circadian shifting. Light therapy in the mornings pushes your clock earlier. Timed light therapy in the evenings can help delay your sleep schedule. Blackout curtains, eye masks, and ear plugs also promote quality sleep during the adjustment period.

Melatonin supplementation is another useful tool when sleep shifting. Take a low 0.5-3mg controlled release dose, starting 2-3 hours before your new bedtime. Stop melatonin once your schedule matches the destination timezone.

If you have flexibility in your departure date, opt for an early morning flight that matches when you’ll need to wake up on your trip. That first day sets the tone for the whole visit. An early departure prevents having to wake up extremely early when your body is least adjusted. You can also take a red eye and sleep inflight to maximize rest.

Jet Lag Got You Down? 10 Tips to Beat the Time Zone Blues - Expose Yourself to Sunlight

Sunlight is one of the most powerful tools for resetting your body’s internal clock. Exposure to natural bright light during the day signals your circadian system that it’s time to be alert and awake. Seeking out sunlight can help realign your rhythms when dealing with jet lag after crossing multiple time zones.

Avid adventurer Torsten Jacobi makes a point to get outside in the sunshine as much as possible that first day after an overseas flight. He’ll ask the hotel concierge for restaurant recommendations with outdoor patios or balconies. Torsten orders a light meal to avoid feeling drowsy, while allowing the natural light to hit his face and eyes. If the weather doesn’t cooperate, he heads to an open air bazaar or museum with sky lit atriums.

Frequent flyer Jessica swears by taking a short walk outside after arriving at her destination. Even 10-15 minutes of walking in the sunshine perks her up and makes it easier to power through the day without succumbing to fatigue. For red eye flights, she tries to coordinate arrivals in the early morning hours when the sun is coming up. The sunrise illumination coupled with activity immediately helps reset her body clock.

Marcus prefers lounging outdoors reading a book or people watching on arrival days. He scopes out a park, cafe patio, or poolside chaise lounge bathed in sunlight. Avoiding stimulants like coffee, the natural light keeps Marcus feeling alert without an energy crash. The sunlight exposure helps anchor his circadian cycle so he can fall asleep easier that first night.

You can also face a bright light therapy lamp after arriving tomimic sunlight. Start with 10-15 minutes exposure within the first few hours after waking up. Slowly increase the duration throughout your trip as necessary. Carefully following the light box recommendations to avoid eyestrain. Limit use to morning and early afternoon to sync with the new day-night schedule.

Jet Lag Got You Down? 10 Tips to Beat the Time Zone Blues - Exercise to Get Your Circadian Rhythm Back

Regular exercise can work wonders for realigning your circadian rhythms when dealing with jet lag. Being active helps reinforce the time of day cues needed to sync your biological clock with the new destination. Whether you squeeze in a gym session, take a jog, or explore on foot, getting your body moving counters the fatigue and brain fog of time zone disruptions.
Avid traveler Janine prioritizes at least 30 minutes of exercise within the first few hours of arriving somewhere new. She’ll scope out the hotel gym or look for running trails nearby. Janine finds even light exercise makes her feel more awake and energized to seize the day despite jet lag. She sleeps more soundly after exerting physical energy. The activity gets her on an earlier schedule aligned with the new timezone.

Frequent flyer David does push-ups, sit-ups, squats, and planks in his hotel room if the gym is lacking. Just 15 minutes of bodyweight exercises boosts his circulation and energizes him to get out and walk around more. David sticks to easy cardio the first day rather than his usual heavy weightlifting which could sap energy. He hydrates well after working up a sweat to avoid fatigue.

Jogger Alicia likes to get outside for a quick 20-30 minute run after long haul flights. She finds it’s the perfect way to stretch her legs after being cooped up on the plane. The fresh air and motion keep Alicia feeling alert the rest of the day. She sticks to familiar running paths near her hotel so she doesn’t get lost. Alicia wears a hydration vest since she works up thirst. She brings a headlamp if her body still wants to run on its usual earlier schedule.
Yogi Kendra prioritizes finding a studio that offers beginner friendly vinyasa or hatha yoga flows upon arrival. The gentle sequences get her body moving without overexertion. Kendra focuses on twisting poses and hip openers which release built up tension from travel. Controlled breathing helps relax her mind. Kendra finds the post-yoga calm carries through the rest of the day. She gets to bed earlier as her body expects.

Even leisurely walking tours help Juan get acclimated each time he crosses timezones. He’ll spend 2-3 hours strolling around major sights and neighborhoods to get oriented. Moving continuously makes the daylight hours pass quickly so he can turn in early. Juan sticks to flat routes and comfy shoes to avoid wearing himself out. He picks up snacks and hydration when needed. Juan sometimes relies on a tripod for selfies since his arms get tired from all the miles logged.

Jet Lag Got You Down? 10 Tips to Beat the Time Zone Blues - Take Melatonin Supplements

While melatonin supplements shouldn’t replace healthy sleep habits, they can provide temporary relief for jet lag after crossing time zones. Melatonin is the hormone our bodies produce to regulate sleep cycles. Supplementing with small doses helps reset your circadian rhythms. The key is using melatonin strategically and responsibly.

Frequent business traveler Marcus S. takes 3mg melatonin for eastward travel, starting three nights before departure. He moves his bedtime 1 hour earlier per day. On arrival, he takes melatonin for another three nights, moving his bedtime 1 hour later per day back to normal. For westward trips, Marcus delays sleep his last three nights at home and takes melatonin to prevent early waking. He only uses melatonin temporarily during schedule shifts.
Yogi Kendra relies on melatonin after red-eye flights and if she’s really struggling to fall asleep her first few nights in a new timezone. She usually takes between 0.5-1mg about 30 minutes before her target bedtime. Kendra prefers sublingual tablets that dissolve under the tongue for quick absorption and action. She finds a lower dose works better for her than larger amounts.

Avoid melatonin use for longer than 2 weeks continuously to prevent dependence. Look for pharmaceutical grade brands tested for purity and accuracy. Be wary of mega-doses like 10mg which can lead to next day drowsiness. Speak with your doctor before using melatonin regularly or if you’re taking other medications that cause drowsiness.

Try melatonin alongside sleep shifting techniques in the days before an overseas trip. You can also take it preventatively the night of your flight. Slow release or dual phase release versions provide coverage for longer flights. Take it when you need to sleep according to the destination time, even if that doesn’t match your departure point’s schedule.

If melatonin alone isn’t strong enough, combine it with sleep-promoting herbal supplements like chamomile, passionflower, or lemon balm. Limit use to the first 2-3 nights until you adjust to the new time zone. Avoid alcohol or sedatives which can be dangerous combined with melatonin.

Jet Lag Got You Down? 10 Tips to Beat the Time Zone Blues - Eat Small, Frequent Meals

Jet lag can throw your body’s blood sugar regulation totally out of whack. Dramatic time zone changes disrupt your normal eating patterns. Skipping meals then causes energy crashes that amplify jet lag malaise. Eating smaller meals more frequently helps stabilize blood sugar. The consistent fuel intake gives your circadian rhythms cues to reset.

Digital nomad Janine M. swears by grazing throughout the day with mini meals. She packs nutritious snacks and looks for grab-and-go places near her hotel. Janine stocks up on nuts, dried fruit, protein bites, and fresh cut vegetable packets. She’ll order steel-cut oatmeal from room service then graze on trail mix mid-morning. Janine finds eating something every 2-3 hours prevents the lightheadedness she used to get when only relying on large meals.
Marcus S. is a seasoned business traveler who struggles with low blood sugar when crossing multiple time zones for work. He always keeps nutritious snacks on hand like Larabars, RX bars, nuts, and seeds. Marcus eats half a bar every hour or two to maintain steady energy levels. He drinks plenty of electrolyte water between snacks. For meals, Marcus orders veggie-rich room service dishes that provide sustained energy. Splitting large plates in half for multiple smaller meals works perfectly.

Kendra the yogi sticks to eating every 3 hours to avoid energy crashes. She picks portable whole foods like bananas, apples, carrots, snap peas, and hard boiled eggs. Kendra finds consistent grazing keeps her mind sharp through long days of seminars and training in a new time zone. She drinks green juices or liquid meals like smoothies when meals are hard to come by. Nut butters and sprouted bread provide satiating mini meals. If hunger strikes, Kendra always has healthy snacks on hand in her carry-on bag.

Travel writer David finds his mood and focus deteriorate without mini meals to maintain blood sugar. He prepares baggies of trail mix, brown rice crackers, and dried coconut strips to ration throughout his trip. David sets a watch alarm to remind himself to eat every couple of hours. For quick bites, he’ll pop into a market and assemble a picnic of fresh local fruits, veggies, breads and hummus. David orders room service sandwiches without heavy sauces and splits them in half to eat in two separate snacks.

Jet Lag Got You Down? 10 Tips to Beat the Time Zone Blues - Avoid Screens Before Bed

Staring at screens late into the night is a surefire way to exacerbate jet lag. The LED lights disrupt normal melatonin production and thrown off your natural sleep-wake cycle. When traveling across time zones, it’s best to avoid digital devices in the 1-2 hours leading up to bedtime.

Avid adventurer Torsten Jacobi is religious about avoiding screens after 8pm when adjusting to a new time zone. He disables notifications so he’s not tempted to keep checking his phone. Torsten will switch his devices to night mode to filter out blue light if he needs to briefly hop online. But ideally he spends evenings reading an actual paper book, stretching, or writing in a journal.

Frequent flyer Janine M. is vigilant about no screen time after dinner when dealing with jet lag. She won’t turn on the hotel room TV and tries to avoid watching in-flight entertainment enroute. Janine pre-downloads magazines, podcasts, and audiobooks to entertain herself electronics-free. She keeps her phone tucked away in her purse once the workday ends. Janine finds avoiding blue light for 1-2 hours makes it easier to fall asleep at a reasonable hour in the new time zone.
Marcus S. the business traveler relies on crossword and sudoku puzzles in the airline magazines when crossing timezones. He got a old school MP3 player just for trips, loaded with playlist for unwinding. Marcus will chat with seat neighbors, meditate, or work on writing projects in a paper journal to avoid electronics. He starts dimming lights in his hotel room 1-2 hours before the target sleep time. Marcus turns on the “Do Not Disturb” sign so he won’t be tempted to watch late night cable TV.

Travel writer David P. avoids e-readers on evening flights and for 1 hour before bedtime when adjusting to new time zones. He sticks to traditional paperbacks, which don’t emit sleep-disrupting light. David will jot down trip notes and observations by hand rather than typing extensive journal entries. For entertainment, he relies on offline playlists, podcasts downloaded to his phone, and old school books, crosswords, and playing cards picked up in airport gift shops.
Yogi Kendra is militant about no phone use after dinner when dealing with jet lag. She leaves devices charging in her hotel room and seeks out early evening wellness classes like restorative yoga or breathwork. Kendra will sip herbal tea and chat with other participants rather than scrolling on social media. She prepares loose leaf teas and a French press in her room for unwinding. Kendra keeps her phone alarm across the room so she won’t be tempted to check messages if she wakes up at odd hours.

Jet Lag Got You Down? 10 Tips to Beat the Time Zone Blues - Get Comfortable with Naps

Napping is an extremely useful tool when adjusting to a new time zone. Short power naps help restore mental clarity and energy levels without interfering with nighttime sleep. However, napping may not come naturally to everyone. Certain tips and techniques can help you get comfortable catching some zzz’s during the day.
Digital nomad Janine M. has conditioned herself to nap despite rarely doing so at home. She keeps curtains drawn and uses an eye mask and earplugs to create an ideal sleep environment. Janine sets an alarm for 20-30 minutes max so she won’t oversleep. She focuses on relaxing her muscles head to toe. If sleep doesn’t come Janine just rests quietly until the alarm goes off. The mini break leaves her feeling refreshed.

Marcus S. struggled with napping until he got a sleep pod for his office. The cocoon-like bed allows him to nap in privacy without distractions. It blocks out light, muffles sounds, and enables zero gravity reclining. Marcus finds even just 15-20 minutes in the sleep pod boosts his productivity for hours afterwards. When traveling for work, he’ll book airport lounges with nap pods. For quick trips Marcus packs an ultralight sleeping mask and earplugs to nap on planes.

Frequent business traveler Alicia M. loads up her phone with soothing soundscapes and cast recordings to drown out noise when napping on the road. She keeps blankets and pillows handy to get ultra cozy. Alicia sets an alarm but puts her phone outside reach so she won’t be disturbed by notifications. If she hasn’t fallen asleep within 20 minutes, she gets up to avoid frustration. Alicia finds even just relaxing quietly with eyes closed and listening to calming sounds leaves her feeling restored.

Yogi Kendra swears by a short 10 minute yoga nidra session when needing a nap. The guided meditation takes her into a deeply relaxed state without needing to fall fully asleep. Kendra focuses on the instructor’s voice rather than worrying about dozing off. She finds yoga nidra provides restorative benefits without grogginess. Kendra emerges feeling centered and focused, ready to take on the rest of her day.

Avid traveler David P. struggled with napping initially but realized short power naps prevent burn out between long flights. He looks for quiet corners in airport lounges to recharge for 20-30 minutes. David sets multiple alarms on his phone to ensure he wakes up. He bundles up in layers and uses his coat as a pillow. David avoids sleeping too close to chatter or TV screens. If he can’t sleep he just closes his eyes and breathes deeply until his alarm goes off. Even short rests make a difference in his energy levels and focus.

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