Sick of feeling like a bag of bricks after flying between time zones? You’re not alone. Jet lag is a problem that affects thousands of flyers every day, but for those frequent business travelers and eager vacationers, there are ways to beat it.
First things first, crossing more time zones or traveling eastward generally increases the time it takes to adapt. For example, a traveler departing from San Francisco to Boston will generally be more out-of-sorts than a traveler heading from Boston to San Francisco.
The Jet Lag Formula
Want to figure out how long your jet lag will last? The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has a formula, of sorts. After eastward flights, jet lag lasts for the number of days equal to two-thirds the number of time zones crossed. So if you crossed three time zones, jet lag might last two days. After westward flights, the number of days is roughly half the number of time zones – meaning if you crossed three time zones, jet lag might hang around for 1.5 days.
Tips for Beating Jet Lag
To feel well-rested during your trip, here’s a before-, during- and after-picture of how to fend off jet lag:
Before the Flight
- Look for flights with layovers. Napping during this buffer zone might help align your body’s clock.
- Adjust your sleep schedule to fit the time zone that you’re traveling to. When venturing into a new time zone, our circadian rhythms remain on their original schedule for several days, leaving us drowsy. So, prepare your body for the change by pushing your schedule one hour back or forward, depending on where you’re going. This will give your body a chance to gradually ease into the new time zone.
- Get a good night’s sleep before the flight. Feeling rested prior to take-off will help you avoid arriving exhausted.
During the Flight
- Pack a sleeping mask and earplugs. Pull the blinders over the sun pouring through the window and tune out that crying baby with these useful travel accessories.
- Stick to water. Coffee and alcohol can throw off your sleep schedule.
- Stay comfortable by dressing in loose clothing and stretching during the commute. Getting up to move around will get the blood flowing, helping to prevent stiffness.
After the Flight
- Go to bed when the locals do. If this means holding your eyelids open with hairpins, do it. Well, maybe not, but try your best to adjust to the destination’s clocks as soon as possible.
- Minimize light exposure and noise levels at your airport hotel room. Set the mood for sleep with quiet, mind-soothing darkness.
- Aim to sleep as many hours as you would at home. If you want to be ready-to-go on vacation, refuel your body with the right amount of slumber.
- Watch your foods. Eat easily digestible meals on the first night to aid sleep.