A few months ago, I explored the Amalfi Coast with Classic Journeys. Upon my return, my kids were excited to hear all about it, but my teenaged son noticed right away that I seemed a bit… off. “Jet lag,” I told him. He asked me what it felt like, so I said “You know when it’s late, and you’re sitting on the couch watching a movie, and you start to nod off but you catch yourself? Imagine feeling like you do in that split second, but it’s constant.”
“Ugh,” he said.
"Ugh" is right. Jet lag is the price we modern travelers pay for being able to cross entire oceans in a matter of hours, instead of days. Unfortunately, jet lag is unavoidable, but there are a few ways that you can lessen its effects.
HOW TO ALLEVIATE JET LAG:
1. Start with your flight plans.
It’s usually possible to book a flight that arrives at your destination during the daytime. It’s much easier to sleep on a plane at night; during a nighttime Atlantic crossing, you’ll have at least five hours to get some shut-eye.
2. If you can, pick your plane.
New model aircraft like the Airbus A350 and A380 and Boeing’s 787 Dreamliner can make it much easier to sleep—along with a bit more legroom, they feature state-of-the-art air conditioning, circulation and pressurization systems that can actually reduce the negative effects of air travel on the body. That’s right, just being on a plane can make jet lag worse. Most aircraft are pressurized to simulate being at 8,000 feet above sea level. If you live at altitudes significantly lower than that, you may be more likely to get headaches and become dehydrated—which in turn—will intensify your jet lag. The planes mentioned above all tout improved humidification and filtration systems that can alleviate those symptoms.
3. Stay Hydrated.
It is very important to stay hydrated! Drink lots of water before and during your flight. Avoid alcohol and coffee, both of which can cause you to become dehydrated quicker.
4. Don't nap upon arrival.
Once you’ve arrived at your destination, whether it’s Lisbon, Prague, or Reykjavik, you might be tempted to catch a quick nap before setting out on your adventure. Don’t! Your body needs to readjust to the current time zone and get itself on a new sleep schedule. You might be tempted to down a few espressos, but that’s a quick fix. Instead, get outside—fresh air and especially sunlight will help your body readjust to the new time zone.
5. Move around!
A quick bit of exercise will get your heart rate up and cause an increase in naturally stimulating endorphins. Walk around and explore your new surroundings! The psychological boost of moving through the streets of a fantastic new city will help you to get out of your foggy state of mind.
6. Sleep when the locals sleep.
Hold off on going to sleep until the locals do; you’ll find that you’ll feel much better the next morning, and will be ready to resume your Classic Journeys adventure!
In addition, it might be helpful to know what causes jet lag. We all have an internal clock of sorts, called the circadian rhythm, that provides biological signals to what we’re supposed to be doing at any given hour—including sleeping. When we zip over several time zones, our bodies aren’t able to keep up, at least at first. It’s right there in the name: the lag between what time it is in the country we’re currently in, and what time our bodies “think” it is. Although jet lag affects everyone differently, I hope these few tactics help take the edge off.
A little about the author:
Jason Avant is a freelance writer based in Carlsbad, California. An avid surfer, hiker, and backpacker, his outdoor passions fuel his love of adventure travel. He’s traveled extensively across the U.S., including three years spent in Alaska; he’s also journeyed through Mexico, Costa Rica, France, and Italy.