10 Extremely Simple Ways To Beat Jet Lag Once And For All

Beat Jet Lag Once And For All With These 10 Simple Hacks - www.travelswithelle.com

Anyone who’s flown through multiple time zones has likely struggled with the circadian confusion known as jet lag. Your body thinks it’s still in one time zone, but it’s physically somewhere else. So it gets confused, tired and fritzy.

You can’t avoid jet lag, but by following these tips you can minimize the dreadful symptoms and enjoy your trip more.

The best way to beat jet lag is to quickly and clearly give your body the information it needs about the new time zone. In short, your body needs a good amount of sleep, food, and sunlight and at the right times.

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10 Extremely Simple Ways To Beat Jet Lag Once And For All

Understand how hard you’ll be hit.

In general, the effects of jet lag seem to be worse when you fly east instead of west. Experienced air travelers know that flying east across time zones is harder than flying west, because traveling east shortens the days, while traveling west lengthens them.

When we travel east, we are essentially losing time as we cross time zones. For example, if you travel from New York to London, you are losing five hours, which means that your body needs to adjust to a shorter day. This can be more difficult for our bodies to adapt to, as our natural circadian rhythm is disrupted.

When we travel west, on the other hand, we are essentially gaining time as we cross time zones. For example, if you travel from New York to Los Angeles, you are gaining three hours, which means that your body needs to adjust to a longer day. While this can still cause jet lag symptoms, it is often considered less severe than when traveling east.

However, it’s important to note that jet lag affects individuals differently, and some people may find that they experience more severe symptoms when traveling west. Factors such as age, health, and sleep patterns can all play a role in how jet lag affects us.

On your next few international flights, take note and see which direction causes worse symptoms. Knowing how your body reacts means you can actually try and help it!

Traveling east means you’re shortening your day, and traveling west means you’re extending your day.

On average, it takes about a whole day for our bodies to shift just one timezone.

Traveling east is generally considered harder to adjust to than traveling west because our body’s natural circadian rhythm is disrupted by losing time rather than gaining it.

Our circadian rhythm is a natural internal clock that regulates our sleep-wake cycle and other bodily functions. When we travel east, we are essentially moving ahead in time, which can be more difficult for our bodies to adjust to. 

This means that if you travel from New York to Los Angeles, which is a three-hour time difference, it can take up to three days for your body to fully adjust.

However, if you travel from Los Angeles to New York, which is also a three-hour time difference, it may only take one or two days for your body to adjust.

When we travel internationally and cross multiple time zones, it can take even longer for our bodies to adjust. It’s no wonder why it often takes up to a whole week for us to adjust after international flights that skip over full continents.

When we travel internationally and cross multiple time zones, it can take even longer for our bodies to adjust. It’s no wonder why it often takes several days (and up to a whole week) for us to adjust after international flights that skip over full continents.

Take melatonin strategically.

Melatonin is a hormone that tells your brain when it’s time to wind down and go to sleep. Taking a small amount, between three to five milligrams, 30 minutes before you want to go to sleep, can really help your body clock.

Here’s a general rule of thumb to help you get it right:

  • Traveling east? Take melatonin in the evening to fast-forward your body clock.
  • Traveing west? Take melatonin in the morning to rewind your body clock.

When traveling east, taking melatonin in the evening can help to fast-forward your body clock and make it easier to fall asleep earlier in the new time zone. This can help to alleviate symptoms of jet lag such as fatigue, insomnia, and difficulty concentrating.

When traveling west, taking melatonin in the morning can help to rewind your body clock and make it easier to stay awake later in the new time zone. This can help to alleviate symptoms of jet lag such as daytime sleepiness and difficulty staying awake during the day.

Eat strategically

Airplane food is fun and free, which is why we can’t help but want to eat it! But it’s also typically bad for you, being high in sodium, carbs, calories, and additives.

Lots of jet lag experts recommend staying away from it.

If you’re open to skipping the plane meal, this can actually help jet lag! Did you know that we can strategically avoid food during the flight to soften the blow of jet lag?

Throughout a long-haul flight, fast by avoiding food and caffeine, all the while drinking lots of water.

Upon arrival or when it’s almost time to land, eat a large fast-breaking meal (along with a cup of coffee if you’d like). Protocols similar to this were shown to significantly reduce the occurrence of jet lag!

food hong kong
First meal in Hong Kong!

Avoid alcohol and caffeine.

Jet lag is partly a result of dehydration. This dehydration starts the minute your flight takes off.

As airplane cabins are commonly pressurized, many people are dehydrated in-flight without even realizing it. To combat this, drink water early and often.

Caffeine and alcohol both dehydrate you, so avoid these as best you can during the flight.

Sawada Coffee West Loop - 4 Day Chicago Itinerary
When trying to adjust to jet lag, I try to avoid coffee after 12pm local time.

Get a good night’s sleep before the flight.

Getting a good night’s sleep before you fly is essential. Chances are, you won’t be getting a good night’s rest on the plane, so make sure you’re well-rested the night before so you’re not completely running on fumes when you arrive in the visiting country.

If you’re someone who can easily knock out on a flight, we’re actually so jealous right now.

Mendocino to Redwood National Park Road Trip - Eureka

Try and sleep on the plane.

Let’s face it, sleeping on a plane isn’t the same as sleeping in an actual bed, by any means!

Despite that, you should try to sleep during your flight so you’re not in zombie-mode when you arrive at your destination.

At bedtime, brush your teeth, slap on a high-quality eye mask and earplugs, recline your seat (as much as your seat allows), and try to sleep as best you can.

Here are things that usually help me sleep on planes:

  • A black-out eye mask: I like the Tempur-Pedic Sleep Mask or the OstrichPillow Eye Mask. Both are pillowy soft and have eye cups so you don’t press on your eyeballs unnecessarily!
  • Neck Pillow: A comfortable neck pillow provides support for your head and neck, helping you avoid that dreaded head bobbing while trying to sleep. I personally use the Trtl Travel Pillow!
  • Noise-Canceling Headphones: Noise-canceling headphones do wonders to drown out the noise of the plane’s engines, chatty passengers, crying babies, and other disturbances, allowing you to relax and sleep more soundly.
  • Loop Quiet Ear Plugs: These game-changing ear plugs are specifically designed for sleeping and do not require Bluetooth or any other type of connectivity. Simply insert them into your ears and the noise cancellation will activate a few seconds later. The earplugs are designed for all types of sleepers, including side sleepers (which I am!)
  • Compression Socks: A pair of circulation support socks can help improve circulation during long flights, reducing the risk of swelling and discomfort that can interfere with sleep.
  • Sleep Aid Supplements: Some people find it helpful to use natural sleep aids or supplements like melatonin, but it’s advisable to consult with a healthcare professional before using any medication. Personally speaking, I’ve had luck with Zzzquil Nighttime Sleep Aid, OLLY Goodbye Stress, and good ol’ Benadryl.
  • Airplane Foot Hammock: Sitting in an airplane for a long-haul flight is beyond uncomfortable (especially for the booty), but an airplane foot hammock makes it… tolerable. The adjustable strap allows you to set it as low or high as you want so you can rest one or both feet on it to take the pressure off your butt.

Strategically pick your arrival time.

When possible, schedule your flight to land in the late afternoon or early evening hours. By doing this, you can ensure that “real” sleep is only a few hours away.

Contrastingly, landing in the morning forces you to be awake for essentially two full days without a full night of sleep. If you’ve ever landed at 8am in your destination city and tried to do things to stay awake, you know how much of a struggle THAT is!

On arrival, stay awake until the local bedtime. If you end up sleeping at 4 p.m. upon landing and end up waking up at midnight, you’ve really accomplished nothing.

Can You Bring This On A Plane

Go for a walk outside before bed.

Before calling it a night, take some time to enjoy the outdoors. It’s key to get some fresh air and take in any remaining sunlight. Although it’s okay to go to bed early your first night, try to stay awake until your normal bedtime.

Mediterranean Harbor - Tokyo DisneySea

Fight jet lag with exercise.

Feeling a little sluggish and fatigued after an international flight? Get a workout in or go for a run at some point after you land– just get that heart pounding. It doesn’t have to be super high intensity, just a decent enough workout to get the metabolism running back to speed.

It’s been proven by science that the best way to get your circadian rhythm back in tune with itself is some good ol’ exercise.

Meiji Shrine - Best Of Japan 2 Week Itinerary
We don’t LOVE being jet-lagged in Japan, but we do love those peaceful early-morning walks.

Follow the jet lag shower protocol.

Believe it or not, there are shower protocols for both the mornings and evenings in order to reset your internal clock. Pay attention, because they aren’t the same thing!

In the morning, try showering on the coldest setting to simulate waking up.

In the evening, it’s recommended that you turn the thermostat down and take a warm bath or shower. Stepping out into the cooler room tricks the body into a sleepier state!

Try one or two of these sleep-inducing products.

Some people find it helpful to use natural sleep aids or supplements like melatonin. For me, melatonin does nothing except make me too hot to sleep. But I know it works for a lot of other people! Everyone is different, so try things to see what works for you.

You should always try to consult with a healthcare professional before using any medication.

Here are a few jet-lag products that can potentially make your adjustment time easier:

Still, prepare for jet lag to hit.

You’ll probably awaken very early on your first morning. Trying to go back to sleep will likely be useless, so just get an early start to the day and catch the sunrise somewhere. Take advantage of your early morning energy!

Use the Timeshifter app.

The Timeshifter app is a popular travel companion designed to help mitigate the effects of jet lag. It utilizes a combination of science, sleep research, and personalized algorithms to create optimized sleep and light exposure schedules tailored to your specific travel itinerary.

Here’s how it works:

  • Upon entering your travel details, including departure and arrival locations and times, the app calculates your individual circadian rhythm and provides a personalized plan.
  • The plan will include recommendations for when to sleep, seek or avoid light, and consume caffeine to help you quickly adjust to the new time zone.

By adhering to the app’s recommendations, travelers can gradually shift their internal body clock to align with their destination’s time zone, making it easier to adapt to the new environment and reduce the symptoms of jet lag, such as fatigue and sleep disturbances.

I tried this app during my last trip to Europe, and it was a nice reminder of all the tips shared above (get sunlight during the day, avoid coffee after a certain hour, etc.). It certainly didn’t prevent jetlag, but it did help me adjust to the local time a teensy bit faster (like in 4 days as opposed to 5).

Timeshifter is especially beneficial for frequent travelers, business professionals, or anyone who regularly crosses time zones and wishes to be more methodical about their jet lag issues.

GAME-CHANGING GADGETS FOR SMARTER AIRPORT TRAVEL

These are some of my favorite airport/airplane travel products that free my hands up and make traveling so much more convenient. Say goodbye to the days of fumbling around or not having enough hands for things.

  • Add-a-Bag Hook and Hanger Strap | Have a purse, briefcase, tote bag, or bag of souvenirs that’s causing you inconvenience by needing to be carried? Get this bag hook and attach it to your luggage so you only need one hand to tow everything with you.
  • riemot Luggage Travel Cup Holder | This foldable drink caddy holds 2 cups, perfect for your pre-flight coffees and fountain drinks. There’s also room to hold books, iPads, phones, tickets and documents.
  • Traveling Hat Clip | Have you ever brought a wide-brimmed hat on vacation and found it to be the most annoying thing to travel with? A hat clip for your bag or backpack completely removes the struggle of needing to carry your hat in hand!
  • Flight Flap Phone & Tablet Holder | Attaches to airline seat backs so you can watch movies hands-free. Also great for standing your phone up on tables too!
  • Clipa2 – The Instant Bag Hanger Collection | Hang your bag or purse literally anywhere (on your luggage, on restaurant tables, hotel rooms, etc).
  • Priority Pass – I have had a Priority Pass membership since 2018, and I don’t think I’ll ever give it up! I love being able to gorge on lounge food/drink, shower, nap, and relax in peace before my flight. If you’re wondering if this pass is worth it, it is! (Especially if you travel internationally — the lounge options have gotten kind of poopie domestically, but are still amazing in other countries!)

Jet lag is unavoidable but that doesn’t mean you can’t lessen the effects. The best battle plan to combat jet lag is to pursue a proper diet, rest, and physical activity in the days leading up to your flight and after you land.

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AUTHOR

Elle Leung

My name is Elle and I'm a travel blogger and adventurer based in California. I love helping people plan trips and create unique itineraries based on their interests and their budgets. I'm a huge fan of outdoor adventures and doing off-the-beaten-path things in my state (and all around the world too)!

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