10 Ways to Cure Jetlag

Incurable Wanderlust Podcast - Season 1, Episode 8

What is worse Jetlag or a delayed flight?

While they are pretty close, jetlag usually wins out as it is one of the hardest things to get over. After years of following what you should / shouldn't do to beat jetlag, I've come up with my own top 10 that work after years of trial and error. Listen in to this episode to learn the top 10 things to do to get over jetlag, the top 5 things not to do, and how to get used to your own time zone when you return.

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Oh jetlag, the horrible side effect of travel. I'm on the west coast of Canada so unless you invite there's really no further timezone. Due to this no matter the trip, I suffer from jetlag, and luckily I've gained a few tricks to help you get over this uncomfortable rough patch. If you've never traveled or have not traveled far enough, then you might not know what jetlag is. jetlag is when your body suffers from any of the following symptoms due to a time change:

- headache or migraine

- fatigue, insomnia, exhaustion, difficulty staying awake or staying asleep

- difficulty concentrating or remembering

- mood swings

- lack of appetite or overeating depending on how your body handles lack of sleep

- gastrointestinal conditions like constipation and diarrhea

- or mild anxiety

The further east you go the worst jetlag get to the time change can jump from seller hours to a day if you cross the international dateline. For example, I'm in BC. So if I traveled to Ontario, New York or Florida, that time changes three hours, which really is not much but if I had to UK that's eight hours, which really makes you feel unprepared. If you've not prepared for jetlag. My first trip to Europe was Ireland. We arrived in the early evening so we went to bed. Then the next day we had to be up early for a wedding. We stayed up late, drinking heavily and crashed hard the next afternoon.

I did try to sleep on the plane as our transit was 20 hours and I did fall asleep but it was only for 10 minutes on the flight from Frankfurt to Dublin. And I woke up because I thought the plane was about to crash. However, it turned out we hadn't even left the tarmac yet. So needless to say I was wide awake for the rest of the trip. When I came home, I had three days off so I stopped when I was tired and stayed awake when I was awake. However, this really messed up my sleep schedule for the next couple of weeks.

When I went to the Czech Republic, I only had 10 days so I left straight from work to the airport, did my best to sleep on the plane. Then when we landed we dropped everything off at the hotel, went out for dinner and then went to bed during the night time. At when I am I was woken up when our lost luggage was finally delivered to the hotel. And then I was wide awake at 6am for the first few days we spent all our time outside before we traveled to another town for a wedding.

We were doing pretty good until we decided to show that us Canadians can hold our liquor against the checks that night resulted in horrible hangover is me getting lost in a nightclub that was at the winery and the father in law. Being in software such rough shape. He couldn't pick up the bouquets the next day for the wedding. Oh, what do you do? That's a story for an entirely another time.

When we landed after the trip, I had to work the next day so I went straight back into my normal routine. Sure, the first day was hard, but by the second day my body was back into the normal routine.

I have noticed, however that as you get older, the jetlag hits you harder. Plus, if you take a trip like the next one that I mentioned, where you travel west and cross the International Dateline, meaning you lose a day it really messes you up.

Traveling from Vancouver to Ho Chi Min City, formerly Saigon I had to cross the international dateline. So besides traveling a few hours forward in time, I traveled entire day ahead. I landed in Vietnam at 1am local time, and then had to deal with a bunch of scam artists. But as I was still on my home time, I was able to sort everything out and get to my hotel safely. Then the local traffic woke me up at 8am with my alarm bid. If you've ever been to the city, then you know what I'm talking about. If you have not, then I suggest checking out my youtube as I filmed some of it.

As a general rule of thumb however, for each hour in time you increase or timezone, then it'll take that number of days. To get over it. So if you jump ahead three time zones or three hours, it'll take you three days if you jump ahead five time zones than five days.

Now the question of how do you beat jetlag is a constant debate with typical responses being:

- Drink lots of water and skip the caffeine and sugar

- Eat during your usual mealtimes

- Stay awake during the day sleep at night

- Take melatonin

- Keep your sleeping space comfortable

- Sleep on the plane

While these might be great ideas, I'm not a fan of packing a fan to help me sleep comfortably. Melatonin doesn't work for me. I can't sleep on the plane, and I don't drink coffee so most of these actually won't work for me. However, after some trial and error as well as years of travel, I've come up with the following 10 things that work for me and my husband.

1. When the lights go off in the cabinet playing close your eyes and relax I'm not somebody who sleeps on the plane but at least closing my eyes and listening to relaxing music will help my body relaxed and slowly reenergized.

Another good option is to use noise cancelling headphones and while they can be expensive we've actually purchased a few sets in our travels when we're at an airport we'll go and check out the electronics store. Then either because of the currency exchange or maybe a clearance sale, we've been able to purchase both Bose and JBL noise cancelling headphones for at least half the price it would cost us at home. Before we found this trick however I would travel with Skullcandy earbuds because I find that the earbuds that fit inside of your ear canal counsel noise better than those that just sit at the opening of your ears.

2. bring water on the plane. Make sure to pack a refillable water bottle that you refill just after customs and buy the largest bottle of water you can while in the airport. You should be drinking at least eight ounces of water per hour of being in the air as per the aerospace Medical Association. And if you drink more than that, then drink water. If you're not sure how much water that is a shot glass holds one ounce. So eight of those would be eight ounces which is not much of you really think about it usually won't bring two of the 1.5 liter everyone bottles on board because they are always two for $1 For some reason at the airport. Once you're on board, however and it's drink time we'll stay away from the coffee and tea and only drink water if it comes from a friend and bottle. The reason for this is because you never know the last time the airplanes water tanks were clean.

3. drink tomato juice while on the plane. I know, I know, tomato juice is gross. However on an airplane just hits differently. Due to the air pressure change, everything tastes different which is why your airplane food either tastes like nothing or it's overly salted. They need that salt so they can get taste from the meal. Well the same with tomato juice. I don't drink tomato juice on the ground and I even do bloody marys but in the air it's similar to drinking a V8 but milder, with a less tomato flavor, because of this, I also find it rehydrates me. Now my husband will drink beer to help them sleep or pop if he needs to stay away and most people will tell you to stay away from alcohol or caffeine as it only makes jetlag worse, but we've yet to find that true. After all, what's more important sleeping on a plane or not sleeping on a plane if it comes to the difference of just drinking one beer. What about staying awake? Who cares if sugar gives you that little bit of zoom if you only have two hours left on your flight.

4. pack an energizing and sleepy time tea. I'm sure to bring a tea with me that does not have any seeds as I would have to claim it and possibly throw it out when I get through customs so I skip most herbal teas. I usually bring some form of matcha or green tea so in the mornings I get that extra pep in my step, and then Sleepytime tea for the evenings.

5. set up for your new timezone. If I can, I'll slowly adjust my schedule by an hour or two, weeks leading up to the trip so it helps give me a little bit of a head start on the change. As soon as I get through customs I'll also change my clocks to the time of the location where I'm going to land. Your airplane tickets are in local time so having your watch or clock set in that time helps to tell your body that you're in the "real time". Then you can start tricking your mind. When I do reach my new time zone, if I'm going to bed then I'll make sure to sleep the first few nights with blinds open so the natural light can help reset my circadian rhythm. If I'm going to bed where it's noisy then I'll use earplugs to make sure I at least get a sound sleep the first night. A lot of people will tell you to use an eye shade as well but if you do then you won't wake up to the natural light which will still keep your system off. Also if you use a nightshade while on the plane they'll skip you when it comes to drink service and breakfast which can help reset your system.

6. replicate your routine. If you go to bed at 9pm, go to bed at 9pm in your new timezone. If you get up at 6am, then wake up at 6am in your new timezone. If you still feel tired when you wake up then spend a bit of time looking at your clock. I know that sounds stupid or crazy but if you can physically see what time it is, eventually your brain will start to realize what time it is and not what time thinks it is.

7. If you're on a plane and you're supposed to sleep, then do your best to close your eyes and do nothing. If you have to do something then try self massage with your hands or your face or even a relaxing podcast, pack boring or trivial activities. If you pack the same word search or a book you've already read. Then when you finally get bored, you'll typically want to sleep because there's nothing better to do while flying. This is what I do. I've packed the same word search for the last 15 years on my flight because I get so bored, I'll just give up. I also pack a physical book and not one on my phone or tablet as it causes me to start to feel tired. When I'm tired I'll pop on my headphones and listening to relaxing music with my eyes closed. If I'm exhausted or I know that no drinks will be coming then I'll put on my eyeshade or pull my hoodie down over my eyes.

8. don't get sick. I'll pack some disinfectant wipes and wipe down my area as I found sleeping with my arms and head on the lap table more comfortable than using a neck pillow. I'll also adjust the air thing in the roof to blow on me so I don't have to worry about the people around me getting sick by coughing. Another thing around that frequent fliers do is put polysporne up their nose on a Q-tip to keep the nasal passages moist and kill anything that you breathe in. I'll admit I've done this a couple times. All you smell is polysporne so I'll pack some onto Q-tips with me and I'll use it only if my nose starts to dry out.

9. exercise. When I landed in Hong Kong, I had a three hour layover and all I wanted to do was sleep. In the area of the airport I was in, there was only four shops, two restaurants, and a coffee shop. So I decided to walk from one end of the airport to the other. I have no idea how many times I did this but I did as many times as it took. When there was no one smoking on the smoking deck at each end I would step outside and get some fresh air. If I needed to get somewhere for the first few days, I walked and started taking transit

10. take the red eye. If you fly, there's a good chance you will arrive in your destination during the day. These flights are also usually cheaper than other flights throughout the day as they're not as popular. I tend to prefer them as I try my hardest to sleep or at least rest during the flight so then when I get to my destination I leave my luggage at the front desk and then hunt out a place to eat or I'll see if there's a Strawberry Tours with a free walking tour of the area. The reason why I like these free tours is because if I go, I go and if I don't, I don't. They're also a great way to get the bearings of the area but there have also been a few times that I've taken them and left partway through because I just cannot stay awake anymore, I need a change of things to do.

Now that we've gone over the 10 tips, what are some things that you shouldn't do?

Well, do not use a sleep sedative. If for any reason your plane goes down the flight crew will leave you in your seat and not save you. If they were to drag out every sleeping person from the plane, no one would make it out.

Don't sleep when you're tired if you land during the day. Sure you can take a nap but nothing longer than 30 minutes. If you'll sleep for longer than that do not lay down.

Don't allow yourself to be bored for the first few days. While you are getting used to your timezone make sure to get out and do things fresh air like walking. These will help you stay awake until it's time to go to bed.

Don't allow yourself to continue being on the old timezone. The more you're able to stick to a routine no matter the timezone you are in, the faster you'll get used to the change. Don't feel bad if you call it an early night. Sure, maybe you're traveling during the fall when the sun sets at 6pm but you usually don't go to bed until 10, or maybe it's 8pm and you just cannot stay awake for those extra two hours until you head to bed. Now if it's 1pm and you're headed to bed for something more than a nap, then you need to force yourself to stay awake. But if this is "nighttime" or dark to to the season, then just head to bed. Make sure however to set an alarm so you do not sleep forever the next day as this can make your jetlag worse.

So how do you use your timezone again after traveling? The easiest way I found to get used to your timezone again, is to get right back into your routine.

Now I've done trips I've landed at 2am and had to get to work less than six hours later but I usually end up sick within a day or two because of my lowered immune system due to the lack of sleep; so I usually start working again the day after landing. This gives me 24 hours to unpack and prep for work. It also allows me to go to bed at my usual time to get up my usual start time during the day. It also gives myself a day to get back into the swing of things too then I find trying to keep my usual routine becomes less than difficult.

Now that we've gone over the 10 things that you should do and what you should do to get used to your regular time zone again and things not to do, I think this is a great place to start in the podcast. But make sure to tune in next week!

Safe travels!

Thank you for listening and make sure to follow or subscribe so you never miss an episode, and can find us when you need to find your next trip. If you can recommend the Incurable Wanderlust to those that you travel with and also if you have a moment, leave us a rating and review. In the review if there are topics or destinations that you'd like to learn more about make sure to include it in your comment. Also, do not forget to visit TheFemaleAbroad.com for more helpful tips, tricks and trips, as well as podcast transcripts. And if you want to stay up to date with me, then follow me on Instagram @female_abroad . Remember the incurable wanderlust is a weekly podcast with new episodes released every Thursday. Thanks again for listening and until next week. Safe travels!