To begin, it’s important to realize that jet leg affects different travelers in very different ways, and some not at all. I’ve experienced a lot of the symptoms myself, but I usually don’t feel any ill effects. The few times I have felt a little “out of it” were when I didn’t take the normal precautions to keep my body in rhythm.
Here’s what I’ve learned from the experts and from my own transoceanic travels about preventing the dreaded jet lag.
Don’t psyche yourself out
Not every single long trip should cause travelers to have jet lag. Jet lag itself is a phenomenon resulting from a series of factors coming together to produce a general feeling of fatigue and discomfort. There is no “jet lag virus” that exists only on airplanes. The single act of crossing two or more time zones alone is not a sufficient cause.
Sometimes, you get what you assume. Too many people go into a long trip mentally preparing themselves to have a bad case of jet lag. It becomes one of the most talked about aspects of a trip before someone departs. Think about that, instead of discussing all the fun and relaxation we’re about to experience, we spend a lot of time talking about each other’s susceptibility to it, and stressing ourselves out in the process.
Try making jet lag a taboo subject before any trip. If someone happens to bring it up, try the opposite of what most people do and say, “You know what, it doesn’t affect me at all.” This simple mind-over-matter trick may be enough to cure you of jet lag forever.
It’s safe to say almost no one drinks enough clean water on a daily basis, but if you do, my hat’s off to you. But even for those of us who do drink a lot of water, we also tend to consume a lot of diuretics. For travelers, the two main culprits are alcohol and coffee, both of which promote the production of urine which in turn dehydrates you.
Anytime your body is undergoing stress like sitting cooped up in a crowded airplane for 15 hours or having to stay awake past your normal bedtime, it needs more water than usual for all the chemical reactions that take place in your body every day.
As much fun as it is to indulge in all the free wine and sugary drinks on international flights, it’s contributing to your dehydration and the odds of you feeling jet lagged upon arrival. Try drinking an extra amount of water before your flight and upon arrival at your destination.
It turns out that our body’s clock and circadian rhythm is probably a little more than 24 hours. So when it comes to delaying our nightly “refresh”, our body can manage pretty well. But in terms of advancing our clocks or effectively shortening a day as we do when we travel East, our bodies don’t enjoy that as much.
The tip here is just to be more mindful of your body and take even better care of it when traveling from West to East because your odds of feeling some jet lag go up.
Exercise is a great way to get your body back to a feeling of normalcy. Stepping off the plane into sunlight when your body is expecting darkness is a bizarre and discomforting feeling. A big part of overcoming jet lag is just getting back to a state of normalcy that you’re accustomed to. A good, solid workout that pushes your limits can be an effective way to get you and your body thinking, “Hey, I know this feeling. I can handle this.”