Our tips for getting over jet lag quickly and onto enjoying your trip
The two worst jet lag experiences we’ve had were our trips to Ireland (8 hour time difference) and Thailand (14 hour time difference). In Ireland, we couldn’t seem to sleep past 5:00 AM for the first four days, and my stomach was totally confused. Over the first week I’d be hungry but nauseous, feeling like I should eat something but nothing sounded good.
In Thailand, I felt like I adjusted to the schedule but would hit a wall and be dead tired at 6:00 PM every night the first week. Coming home was even worse, and I went through a week of fatigue and always wanted to go to bed at 7:00 PM.
Here are a few things that have helped us get over jet lag quicker and onto enjoying our trip (and helped us recover coming home).
1. Forget what time it is back home.
Jet lag is 50% psychological. If you wear a watch, set it to the time in your destination right when you get on the plane. Quit thinking “But it’s 2:30 AM back home!” when you are heading out to lunch. The sooner you accept and mentally adjust to your new schedule, the sooner your body will too.
2. Do your best to get a regular sleep schedule going.
This can be difficult if you’re on vacation, traveling around and going out some nights. If it works for your itinerary, try to go to bed and get up around the same time each day. However, if you only have one night to party in Amsterdam before your 9:00 AM train the next morning—live a little and hope for some nap time the next day.
3. If you arrive in the mid to late afternoon dead tired, do your absolute best to stay up until at least 8:00 or 9:00 PM.
After a long flight with no sleep, the urge to head to the hotel and draw the blackout blinds is strong. Resist. Get some coffee, walk around, see some stuff. Hopefully the excitement of a new city will help pull you through. You may be exhausted and not have the most fun the first day, but getting a regular sleep schedule to enjoy the rest of your trip is imperative. Hang in there and wait it out until after dinner, so that you can wake up at the appropriate time the next day (not at 2:00 AM).
4. If you need to sleep and aren’t tired, try melatonin.
Melatonin is a natural hormone that helps you regulate your sleep cycle and sleep easier. It doesn’t leave you groggy like sleeping pills, and is easily found in the vitamin section of your local drugstore. I use it now and then when I feel restless and need to get to sleep. Melatonin is a good natural way to help regulate your sleeping cycle in a new time zone and get over jet lag faster.
5. Eat a well balanced diet.
New foods and digestive issues aside (see our tips on avoiding traveler’s diarrhea), try to eat lots of veggies and lean protein, and avoid lots of sugars. Sugar gives you short bursts of energy followed by energy crashes. Try and eat healthy whenever possible.
6. Schedule at least one day off between coming home and going back to work.
Unfortunately, jet lag is always worse coming home. One day isn’t going to help you get back to normal right away, but it will help you catch up on rest, unpack, do laundry, go grocery shopping, and feel less frazzled and stressed out when you head back to work. If you can manage it, one or two days to take a vacation from your vacation is super helpful.