Have you ever arrived in a foreign country for a vacation of a lifetime, and found yourself exhausted to the point that it affected your plans? Or returned home and struggled for the next week to acclimate back to a normal sleep schedule? If either of these scenarios sound familiar, you’ve suffered from jet lag! And it’s awful, no two ways about it. People often tell you to power through it – and just “get on the destination’s schedule” as soon as possible. But that’s easier said than done when you’re experiencing the very real effects of jet lag.

You can’t really prevent jet lag, which is even more annoying. However, there are ways in which we can minimize what can be a debilitating travel condition. We hope after you finish reading this post you have the tools to help ease you into your next vacation with a minimum of jet lag.

What is jet lag?

Well, put in its simplest terms jet lag is a sleep disorder, brought on by traveling quickly across two or more time zones. Your body’s internal clock (circadian rhythms) get confused, and needs time to adjust to the new time of day. When you don’t make this adjustment gradually, you might find yourself suffering from a variety of issues that in sum are considered jetlag.

What are the symptoms of jet lag?

Symptoms of jet lag are wide-ranging. Even just a basic feeling of being “off” can indicate jet lag. The following are some common symptoms that you can expect when you’re jet lagged:

  • Insomnia
  • Drowsiness during the day
  • Headaches
  • Difficulty concentrating/brain “fog”
  • Fatigue
  • Stomach upset
  • Moodiness/irritability

Does jet lag affect you more when flying east or west?

Most sleep experts agree that flying east is harder on the body. This is mainly because humans are better adapted to staying up late, rather than going to bed earlier than normal.

How long does it take for jet lag to resolve?

In general, most people don’t seek a doctor’s advice and even if you do nothing at all, your symptoms will go away on their own in just a few days. However, there are a few things you can do to mitigate the effects of jet lag:

Get some sun

That’s right. The first thing you want to do when you land is park yourself somewhere sunny. Sit at a cafe, head out to the pool or the beach – whatever you do – do NOT lie down in a dark room. Light can help your body start to make the adjustments it needs.

Put yourself on the local sleep schedule ASAP

As soon as you arrive, you’ll need to set your mind to being on local time. So even if a long nap seems intuitive at the time, push back against this urge and get yourself on a schedule that aligns with the place you’re visiting. This may be the most important step to take – it can also be the most challenging.

…but skip new foods if you can

When you first travel to a new country, it’s tempting to try all of the new culinary experiences. You definitely should – but give yourself a few days to acclimatize. Some people’s jet jag manifests itself in digestive troubles. Let your body ease into a new destination slowly. There will be time for new dining experiences.

Hydrate, hydrate, hydrate!

Don’t forget to drink water – more than you think you need. Fights are dehydrating, and dehydration will exacerbate jet lag. Just don’t forget to make it bottled water if you’re in a destination where drinking water isn’t safe for tourists.

Get some sleep on the airplane

It may help to get some shut-eye before you land. But a lot of people struggle to sleep when in flight. You can try over-the-counter sleep aids like Melatonin, but we don’t recommend prescription sleeping pills. The effects on your body can make it harder to adjust if you’re not used to them.

Jet lag can be such a bummer when you’re just trying to enjoy an amazing new place. But with our tips and a little patience, you’ll get through it and be ready to enjoy your vacation!

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