5 Tips To Stave Off Jet Lag After Your Next Long Flight

With the world seemingly opening back up, more and more countries are scaling back their strictly regulated COVID-19 travel bans. Now, instead of worrying about providing customs with your negative COVID-19 test, you can instead focus on the details of your trip — such as planning out how to fight off jet lag. You never really realize how vast the world is until you sit on a plane for eight hours or more. Depending on where you're traveling, you could even cross the International Date Line, that imaginary, north-south line in the Pacific Ocean that marks the border between calendar dates and instantly transports you from one day to another (via National Ocean Service).


In short, travel can make your sense of time wonky. And if you are traveling to a faraway land, you can expect to experience jet lag, the slow-to-transition sleep struggle caused by traveling across multiple time zones (via Mayo Clinic). Your body has an innate internal clock and is accustomed to the natural routine of the sun rising and setting. When you suddenly travel to a new time zone, it's now been thrown off several hours, disrupting your sleep schedule. This inconvenience can be a major annoyance, especially if you only have a few days to acclimate and enjoy your destination of choice. Want to take full advantage of your time abroad? Read on for tips to stave off your jet lag.

Book a flight that lands at an appropriate time

When booking an international flight, booking the cheapest option with wild hours is always a tempting to save some cash. However, travel experts at USA Today suggest beating jet lag by booking a flight that flies overnight and arrives early when traveling east or flying late afternoon and arriving late when traveling west. This way, you either land ready to start your first day at the top of the morning, or you land late at night and can urge the body to sleep once you've arrived and checked in to your hotel.


Eat and sleep on your destination's schedule

Airplane meals have evolved dramatically over the decades, and have become increasingly accommodating with options to pre-select your meal type and dietary restrictions. But most passengers still have little control over when they receive their meals, which can be an issue if they're in opposition to the schedule at your destination time zone.


Some airlines are finding ways to smooth this transition. For instance, in 2018, Qantas unveiled an in-flight dining experience geared toward easing stress and helping passengers' bodies dodge jet lag. Many international flights also try to accommodate sleep schedules on board. For example, you may find the lights dim after dinner is served, and will turn back on as breakfast is served based on your arrival time zone. Let these cues lead the way for your body's instinctual reset.

Pack melatonin to help with sleep

With airlines now offering more amenities and entertainment options during flights, it's very tempting to buy Wi-Fi or watch movies during the lights-off night hours. But if these hours are also nighttime hours at your final destination, try your best to catch some shut-eye. Of course, this can be easier said than done. If the excitement of your travels is too much, be sure to pack some safe sleep aids in your carry-on, such as melatonin.


As physician Dr. Caron Sak tells CNBC, melatonin is a hormone your brain produces that alerts your body that it's time to rest. "One way to think of melatonin is as an alarm clock for bedtime," says Dr. Sak. "It tells us it is time to go to sleep rather than actually making us sleep." This makes melatonin a handy sleep aid for combatting jet lag. Plus, you can also take it during your travels if you find yourself counting sheep at your hotel or Airbnb.

Welcome the morning sunlight

Once you've landed at your final destination, your body may want to sleep through morning alarms and keep the curtains closed. But while it may be annoying and uncomfortable initially, encouraging your body to acclimate to the new time zone is essential. The body's internal timer, known as its circadian rhythm, is closely tied to the light and dark cycles of the sun (via the CDC). Simply sitting in direct sunlight will help the body to wake up and alert your system that dawn has broken and it's time to start your day.


Avoid junk food

Transporting your body to a different time zone and environment can be a big shock to the system. Even navigating new cultural surroundings can add to its stress, and your body may want to hide under the bed to process all the changes it has endured. It's crucial, therefore, to keep your system as nourished and clean as possible.


Eating processed junk foods will only cause you to feel more uncomfortable, contributing to insomnia. As dietician Dana Hunnes tells Condé Nast Traveler, "The salt will just make you feel more bloated than the plane did. The cheese may just constipate you more." Instead, take advantage of your new travel destination and try some of their fresh fruits and veggies to acclimate better. You can even venture out to the nearest café for a balanced morning breakfast to beat the jet lag.