Top 11 Tips to Cope With a Jetlag

Flip Flop Wanderers

All travelers will experience it sooner or later: jetlag. If you fly regularly then the symptoms of a jetlag will be very familiar. Exhaustion, daytime fatigue, headaches, difficulty concentrating are all part of it. Of course, different people react to jetlag in different ways, but mostly, shifting your time zone for more than two hours really confuses your body’s biorhythm. It’s also different for everyone how long it takes to recover from a jetlag and unfortunately you can’t eliminate a jetlag completely, but fortunately, there are definitely some tricks to lessen its effects. We’ll discuss these tricks below.

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1. Prepare at home before departure

The best thing is to already prepare yourself at home before you even get on the plane. Jetlag symptoms are worse when you’re flying east than flying west. This is because when you are flying west your body thinks your days are getting longer whereas going east your body thinks the day is shorter. Relax your schedule before you fly. Don’t have a too rigid routine of eating and sleeping because this makes it much harder to adjust to new time zones. Try to stay flexible.

What also might work is already adjusting your bedtime before going on the plan. When you’re traveling east, slowly start moving your bedtime earlier, like half an hour earlier each night. When you’re traveling west, start moving your bedtime later. This way you are already a bit more adjusted to the timezone of your destination. And last but not least, get a good night’s rest before you fly!

2. Set your watch and manage sleep-wake rhythm

Immediately when you get on your plane, set your watch to the new time zone of your destination. This is more a psychological thing but it really helps to be prepared for the new rhythm. Adjust yourself to the new time already on the plane. Sleep when it’s night in your destination and stay awake when it's daytime. If you are arriving at your destination while it’s nighttime here, then try to stay awake a few hours before you land. It’s best to go to bed when you arrive and wake up in the morning to immediately acclimate to the new time zone.

3. Consider a stopover

If you have enough time and you can afford it, then it’s a good idea to make a stopover along your route. For far destinations this can really help you customize better to a new routine. It gives your body more time to adapt, since you split up the trip, and in the meantime you’ll get to discover a whole other destination along the way!

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4. Drink plenty of water

Make sure to drink plenty of water before, during and after your flight to avoid dehydration. The air inside the airplane is usually pretty dry so you’ll definitely need it. Avoid alcohol and caffeine the day before and the day of your flight. It might look like a great idea to be able to sleep better or to stay awake but this effect is only short term. It actually dehydrates you even more and makes it even harder to adjust to your new time zone!

5. Keep moving

Try to move around on the flight. Yes, this can be hard in a small plane, but it’s already enough to just walk down the aisle a few times and do some stretching exercises on your chair. Wearing flight socks might also be a good idea to prevent thrombosis.

6. Try Melatonin

Melatonin might be a perfect supplement for you to try and combat jetlag. It’s a natural hormone produced by your brain that tells your body to go to sleep. Since it’s all-natural it won’t harm you but can actually help you to sleep easier and faster.

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7. Eat at the right times

Immediately start eating three meals a day in line with the new time zone. You can even start this while you are still at home. Also, make sure to eat healthy and avoid salty and sugary foods while traveling. A good diet can definitely help with some jetlag symptoms.

8. Adjust to your destination

Once you have arrived at your destination, adjust yourself to the daily rhythm of your new time zone. Go to bed when it’s night and try to stay awake during the day. This is easier said than done because sometimes you are just too tired during the day or you can’t sleep at night but try to do it as much as possible. If bedtime is too far away and you just need to nap, then only take a power nap of no more than 20 to 30 minutes. For the rest of the day, try to be distracted and keep active. Get out into the sun to get as much daylight as you can because this certainly makes you feel better. If you can’t sleep at night, then at least go lay in your bed and make it as dark as possible. Important thing is to not force yourself to go to sleep though cause this only leads to frustration which can then prevent sleep. Just try to rest as much as possible.

Remember, jetlag is often something psychological so try not to think about it too much. Don’t think all the time about what time it is at home or what you would be doing if you were still there. Just think about the time where you are in right now and do the things that fit with that time of the day!

9. Overtire yourself

When you really can’t get into the new routine sometimes the best and most extreme measure is to just overtire yourself and maybe even skip a night's sleep. We know it's super hard but if you really can’t sleep at night then sometimes it’s best to not force it but skip the night and then try to stay awake for as long as possible the day after. We bet you will be tired early that next evening! And when you sleep early that night it’s also easier to get up earlier in the morning.

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10. Take it easy

Give yourself time to adjust to the new rhythm. Because let’s be real, a jetlag is best solved over time. All these tips will certainly help you adjust to your new time zone much faster, but in the end, your body needs time to acclimatize and to recover from a long flight. Give your body that time! You may want to immediately go on adventures and explore everything but take it from us, it’s best to take it slow the first few days. Also, don’t be too hard on yourself when you are sleeping too long or when you can’t sleep at night. Realize that this is only a temporary problem and that it will get better after a few days. Don’t plan too many big activities immediately at the start of your trip but wait till the third day or so. And until then keep everything stress-free and relaxed. Let your body customize to the new time.

11. Consider medication

If really nothing helps for you then a last solution might be considering medication. Your doctor can prescribe medications to help you sleep or to stay alert when necessary.

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Photo Rights Owned by Bram and Manon, @flipflopwanderers

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We are Bram (32) and Manon (31), an adventurous couple traveling full-time all over the world together. In our pursuit of happiness we’ve been on two world trips and are not planning on stopping soon! Our goal is to help you make your travel dreams come true, live your best happy life, and enjoy the earth’s most beautiful places at a ‘slow’ pace!

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