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Jet lag can take the fun out of traveling. Each time you cross time zones, you have to suffer through a few days of fatigue, mental confusion and a general feeling of malaise.
Currently, there is no cure for jet lag. But there are jet lag aids that can help minimize the severity of your symptoms. Some of these work best before or during travel, while others can help when you are in the throes of jet lag.
Melatonin is a natural hormone that’s produced in the body. It helps us relax and get ready for sleep. Melatonin is also a common sleep aid that you can take to help with insomnia and other sleep problems.
It also works great for fighting the symptoms of jet lag. Taking between 0.5mg to 5mg of melatonin for a few days after getting to your destination can help your circadian rhythm shift to the new time zone quicker.
Take melatonin about an hour or two before you go to bed in your new destination. This will help you sleep, even when your body feels alert. It can also help reduce daytime sleepiness.
If you find yourself awake too early in the morning like 3am or 4am, taking a dose of melatonin can help delay your body from getting fully awake. Do this for a few days to get your body used to the new time zone.
Some people also use melatonin before traveling to reduce the impact of jet lag. For instance, if you are traveling east (meaning you lose time), it’s a good idea to start sleeping earlier to get your body ready for the new time zone. Taking melatonin can help you sleep earlier.
Talk to your doctor before taking melatonin if you are pregnant, taking medication or have a major health issue such as depression or an autoimmune disease.
2. Homeopathic Jet Lag Remedies
This is where we deviate a bit from science and into anecdotes. If you check on Amazon, there are lots of homeopathic jet lag remedies such as Miers Labs NO Jet Lag remedy. Most of these products are natural or plant-based.
The thing is, most of them have lots of positive reviews and high ratings (they are not fake reviews, we double checked). And yet, there’s no scientific evidence that homeopathic remedies work for jet lag.
We don’t know exactly how these products work, but they seem to be effective at reducing the effects of jet lag. Plenty of people have been using them for years to make travel easier.
Remember to always check the ingredients before you buy any homeopathic product. Check for anything that can affect you negatively especially if you are pregnant, you are taking medications or you currently have a health problem.
3. Sunlight or Light Therapy
Sunlight is like the opposite of melatonin. While melatonin puts you to sleep, sunlight makes you alert. Sunrise is one of the signals our internal clock uses to wake us up in the morning.
You can use this to combat jet lag when you travel westward. In the morning, local time, you’ll probably feel sleepy because it’s still night back at home. Your body is still on a home clock.
The trick is to go outside in the sun when you wake up. Exposure to sunlight forces your body awake and helps acclimate your circadian rhythm.
If you don't have access to sunlight, light therapy using a light box or just turning on bright lights can help.
Yes, sleeping can help you sleep better and at the right time. We’ve already mentioned how adjusting your bedtime before you travel can help counter jet lag. Sleep earlier or later depending on the time zone you are traveling to.
There are apps and websites that will help you come up with a pre-travel sleep schedule.
Sleeping during your flight can also help you adjust quicker to the new time zone. If you will be arriving at your destination early in the morning, try to nap on the flight. This will minimize daytime sleepiness and fatigue.
If you are having trouble sleeping on the plane, take some melatonin. If you really can’t sleep, at least try to move around. Being active, as we’ll discuss shortly, has also been found to help with jet lag.
Napping can also help once you have arrived. If you are feeling really sleepy during the day, take a quick 20-30 minute nap. It will refresh you without making it difficult to fall asleep when night time arrives.
Dehydration worsens symptoms of jet lag. You’ll get a worse headache, you’ll feel more tired and you’ll experience severe mental fog or confusion.
Your body is already undergoing stress from traversing across time zones. Don't make it harder on yourself. It’s actually easy to get dehydrated while on a plane because of the drier air.
Drink lots of water before, during and after the flight. And no, coffee and alcohol don't count as water. If anything, they will worsen jet lag by affecting your sleep.
I know I’ve just said coffee can worsen jet lag. But that’s only if you take when you are supposed to be napping, which is usually the case during the flight.
Coffee is helpful after you have landed and need help staying awake. If you arrive during the day but your body tells you it’s night time, drink some coffee to fight off the sleepiness.
But be careful not to drink coffee close to the local bedtime. Give yourself at least 6 hours between your last cuppa and when you plan to go to bed. This will ensure the caffeine doesn't make it harder to sleep and worsen your jet lag.
There is some new evidence that exercise can alter the circadian rhythm, thus making it a potentially effective aid for jet lag.
Working out during certain periods of the day adjusts your internal clock and makes you sleep earlier. It also helps that exercise makes you tired and increases your need for sleep.
Frequent travelers have found that exercising in the morning when they arrive helps them shift to the local time a lot quicker and greatly reduces the severity of jet lag. Do this for 2-3 mornings and you’ll be waking and sleeping just like a local.
Hit the gym, or even better, go outside for a run or brisk walk to get additional benefit from sun exposure.
If you often experience serious jet lag that leaves incapacitated, talk to your doctor about prescribing medication.
Medications like nonbenzodiazepines and benzodiazepines can reduce the symptoms of jet lag.
Because our bodies are different and respond differently, we recommend trying several of the above aids to see which one is most effective.
The more you travel, the better you’ll get at fighting jet lag. It will probably never go away completely, but it can reduce to a point where it doesn’t bother you that much.