Anyone who flies through multiple time zones has to grapple with the biorhythmic confusion known as jet lag. Flying across the world to get to Europe will make your body say, “Hey, what’s going on?”! Too many people assume their first day will be made worthless by jet lag. But there are a lot of people of all ages, that have enjoyed productive — even hyper — first days. You can’t avoid jet lag, but by following these tips you can minimize the symptoms.
Leave home well rested. Flying halfway around the world is stressful. Plan from the start as if you’re leaving two days before you really are. Keep that last 48-hour period sacred (apart from your normal work schedule). You’ll be physically and mentally comfortable to start a new adventure. You’ll fly away well rested and 100% capable of enjoying the bombardment of your senses that will follow.
Use the flight to rest and reset. In-flight movies are good for one thing: nap time. With a few hours of sleep during the transatlantic flight, you’ll be functional the day you land. If you can sleep on the plane—even for a few hours—it makes a big difference. Earplugs and an eye mask will help.
Change the time. Don’t forget to change the hours in your wristwatch. Don’t prolong jet lag by reminding yourself what time it is back home. Be in Europe! You can even do this some days before, and you could also try to move your mealtimes. That might mean a super-early trip to the gym in the morning and going to bed before my favorite TV shows are over. But it pays off when you arrive and also makes it easier to sleep on those red-eye flights to Europe.
On arrival, stay awake until an early local bedtime. Plan a good walk until early evening. Jet lag hates fresh air, daylight, and exercise. Your body may beg for sleep, but stand firm: Refuse. Force your body’s transition to the local time. The fresh air and sunshine make it much easier to stay awake than if you’re stuck inside. If sightseeing, take a walking tour. You’ll probably awaken very early on your first morning. But, enjoy it! This may be the only sunrise you’ll see in Europe.
Consider jet-lag cures. The last thing I want to do is promote a pharmaceutical, but I must admit that the sleep aid are best friend of a lot of travellers! Like all medicins, sleep aid pills can have side effects, and if misused, can be habit-forming; consult with your doctor, and read and follow the directions carefully.
Hydrate. Dry and pressurized airplane cabins can quickly dehydrate you, making you feel extremely sleepy. Drinking water throughout the trip helps ease that process. It doesn’t stop jet lag but it helps make sure dehydration doesn’t compound your fatigue.
Avoid alcohol. Again, the issue here is dehydration on long overseas flights. I can’t blame you for having a glass of red wine to help fall asleep, but don’t have too much or you’ll have a nasty headache and never properly adjust to the new time zone.
Stretch. It helps your body feel more normal and not as confined on a plane. This doesn’t combat jet lag per se, but it does reduce some of the scars of travel.
Don’t shift time for short trips. This tip is only for trips less than 48 hours. If you’re jetting off to Europe for a single meeting and then racing back home, it pays to stay on your home time zone.
Adapted from Rick Steves and Travel and leisure | Photo: ABC News