How To Avoid Jet Lag
Our destination: Richards Bay, South Africa.
Our departure city: Cancun, Mexico.
Our route: Cancun > Washington D.C > New York City > Johannesburg > Richards Bay.
This was in June of 2013 and it would mark the beginning of the second stage of our epic vacation. It also involved a lot of fatigue and jet lag.
I remember getting to our hotel in Richards Bay in the late afternoon, probably around 3PM, and all I wanted to do was sleep. Sleep for days.
But I also knew that Joyce and I had to work on resetting our internal clocks, our minds and our bodies, to South African time and that meant staying awake for as long as we could so that we went to bed at a normal South African bedtime. It would not be easy.
Jet Lag Steals From You
Vacations have a very finite amount of time and if a traveler is not careful jet lag can steal some of the precious time. But if you are careful and do a bit of planning and preparation you can reduce the amount of time you suffer from jet lag.
How To Avoid Jet Lag
Begin your trip hydrated and well rested. We all know the build up to a vacation can be stressful and full of last minute preparations and activities that leave you exhausted by the time you board your flight.
But do your best to leave for your vacation with a full night’s sleep and with plenty of water in your system. This will help give your body the tools it needs to deal with the coming stress of the sudden time change and activities.
Know your destination’s time when you leave. You’ll want to get your body’s clock aligned with your destination’s time as soon as you can so know the time difference right when your vacation begins.
Say you must leave your house at 6AM to catch that 9AM flight, think about what time you are leaving in regards to where you are going. So if the time difference is 8 hours then you are leaving at 2PM to catch a 5PM flight.
Begin to align your sleep patterns on the plane. This will vary for every type of traveler. I for one have a lot of trouble sleeping on planes even when I know it would benefit me. But ideally you’ll want to use the time you are flying to get rested and aligned with your destination’s time.
Always stay awake until the local bedtime. Even if you arrive at noon completely exhausted and sleep deprived do what you can to stay awake until the local bedtime – even if it is an early bedtime.
Wake up when locals wake up. Again this is one that will vary depending on what type of sleeper you are. Some people will be challenged because their body will wake them up in the middle of the night, some (like me) will be tempted to sleep 12 to 14 hours to make up for lost time.
Whatever the case may be be sure to get out of bed at a reasonable local time. So if you are awake stay in bed with the room dark and do you best to at least rest. And if you are like me and your body always seems to want a little extra sleep force yourself up and out of bed and into the sunlight.
Consider natural supplements to help align your sleep pattern. Caffeine if you need help staying awake and melatonin if you need help falling asleep.
All these steps will help for sure but there is no guaranteed way to avoid jet lag. We have found that proper trip planning can be a help too.
For example don’t plan to do a high energy activity the day after you arrive. Give yourself a day or two of low key activities to allow your body to adjust. This is especially true if you have not experienced jet lag before. Everyone reacts to it differently and adjusts to it at a different pace so give yourself the extra time just in case you need it.
If you have any tips or tricks that help you avoid jet lag we’d like to hear about them, leave us a comment below!