No matter what anyone tells you, jet lag is something you can treat but not completely avoid. Traveling in the sky fast enough to outpace our biologically imprinted circadian rhythms requires some body hacking to mitigate the effects.
You’ll still feel jet lag but less intensely for shorter durations if you subject yourself to a few uncomfortable rules.
1. Don’t Eat On The Flight
For some reasons as soon as we board a flight our appetites start fiendishly craving overly processed, tasteless airplane food. Our biological clocks are timed in big part through our livers. According to neuroscientist Matthew Walker, evolution has primed our bodies to become sleepy a short time after our final meal of the day. Having airplane food high in sugar and sodium resets this countdown timer. Also, the lactose in the foods and other additives may cause even more gas than flying already does disrupting deep sleep even further.
2. Run Right After Your Flight
A solid cardio-focused workout can help speed up our body clocks adjustment to a new timezone. The impact of running in particular might have a significant impact on combating jet lag, shortening it up to 8 times in limited animal studies. Anecdotally, the best time to get the workout in is immediately after arriving to a new destination. Don’t fall for the “I’ll just rest my eyes” trap and get to a park, treadmill, or if either aren’t an option, try these hotel room workouts.
Plan for a minimum of 30 minutes or more of exercise at the highest intensity comfortable for you to get your blood thoroughly circulating. Swollen flight ankles? Running or biking is a straightforward way to treat that flight side effect as well.
3. Control The Mornings And Power Through
Sleep is not a state you can will yourself into easily but staying awake is a goal we can achieve through conscious will. No matter what time you land, try to get to sleep at a normal hours but no matter how little you sleep, get up on time in the morning. Give yourself an extra hour from your regular wake up time back home but other than that, don’t snooze. Using your bladder as an alarm clock can ensure you get out of bed, no matter how much you want 5 more minutes.
Use Chemicals Subtly
Caffeine can also be used in moderation to help adjust your clock as well if consumed at the right times. Caffeine drinkers, get that coffee or tea as early as possible in the morning after you wake up but don’t consume any after noon. You might be wondering about alcohol but since that drug blocks rapid eye movement (REM) and deeper stages of sleep, if you must, keep it to one drink until your jet lag is gone.
One last thing, remember that getting over jet lag takes time so maintain these habits for at least a week, depending on how many time zones you’ve shifted. In the first day or two we often have a rebound effect giving a false honeymoon period that we’ve cracked jet lag – only to realize a week later at 3am completely awake that might have been wishful thinking.