Jet lag isn’t fun, especially when you’re on vacation. Our bodies run on internal clocks, known as circadian rhythms, which signal when we routinely wake, eat and sleep. Throw in multiple time zones and the sync veers off: we end up feeling fatigued, unfocused, and many even experience indigestion. Not good when you’re on limited exploration time. So what’s a frequent flyer to do? We’ve tried and tested five easy steps that’ll help minimize the effects of jet lag and quickly reboot your body according to the time zone you’re in. Next time you head to a far-flung destination, or even just cross-country, give them a try and notice how much more you’re able to enjoy the trip.
Prepare a few days before departure
Ever notice how your body, particularly if you have a nine-to-five, starts shutting down around the same time every night? Well, time for some retraining. You can prepare for the sudden shut-eye change days out of the trip by shifting bedtime according to the time zone you’re heading to. For example, if you’re flying from New York to London, know that you’ll be sleeping five hours earlier when you get there. So each night, go to bed a little earlier. Not only will you enjoy the perks of sunrise in Manhattan for a week or two, but you’ll narrow down that time difference significantly upon arrival. That means riding Brigit’s Bakery Afternoon Tea Bus without dozing off into the cake, and dancing at Mamma Mia! The Party without stumbling.
Get some vitamin D
You may be tempted to crash out in your hotel suite after a long flight, but that just means you’ll be wide awake in the middle of the night. Light exposure heavily influences circadian rhythm, and in a nutshell, exposure to the sun will help you adjust to a later time zone. If you’re traveling west, from say, Paris to Atlanta, then head outside after dropping off your bags. Buckhead’s Kimpton Sylvan has a slew of attractions close by worth catching some rays for, including the Atlanta Botanical Garden that’ll effortlessly keep you awake till it’s time to retire to your suite.
Drink a lot of water: and don’t be tempted otherwise
We’ve all been to fancy airport lounges like the United Polaris Lounge at Washington Dulles, seen an open bar, and knocked back one too many glasses of champagne. But if you really want to feel right when you reach Barcelona, then consider skipping booze (and coffee) altogether, and H20 it the entire layover. Wine induces sleep, yes, but of the very worst quality, and dehydration from caffeine will affect your REM cycle. Instead, take advantage of the buffet station and sip bubbles via sparkling water. In Barcelona you can do it like a true Spaniard: siesta upon arrival then drink till you pass out at Kimpton Vividora’s Terraza de Vivi rooftop bar.
Get some light exercise at your destination
Hours in the same position will leave your body feeling cramped and fatigued. If it’s still daytime at your destination, give a light cardio workout a go (the benefits double if you do it out in the sunshine). You’ll feel pumped from the rush of endorphins, which in turn will help reduce stress and promote a better night’s sleep. Just landed in LA after a grueling trip west? Hit up one of the many trails, or squeeze in a few pool laps at the Kimpton Hotel Wilshire and you’ll generate a much-needed boost to power through the evening’s attractions before nightfall.
Only some sleep on the plane if it’s night at the destination
Just because it’s 6pm in Chicago and you’ve just taken off, doesn’t mean you should stay wired to CST till you arrive in Cape Town. Start the jet lag fight as soon as you board, even if that means missing a recently added on-board blockbuster or the tea and pretzels. Certain airlines and classes are able to work meals around your sleep patterns, such as Virgin Atlantic’ Upper Class, whereby guests can select a ‘quick’ version of in-flight meals so they can focus on sleep (the lie-down bed, pajamas, and bed linens sure help too).