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How to Avoid Jet Lag

woman sleeping on pillow

Jet lag is a reality for vacationing. Depending on where you live relative to your vacation destination, the effects of jet lag will vary.

What we want to answer today is, how to avoid jet lag in the first place.

And we’ve come up with 6 things that might help.

To avoid jet lag, we recommend:

  • Get uninterrupted sleep in the days leading up to your flight
  • Take vitamin D and magnesium before bed
  • Limit alcohol consumption
  • Limit caffeine consumption
  • Bring things to help sleep on the plane
  • Get on the pattern of your new time zone

Now, at this point, a lot of other websites are going to get into a long dissertation on what is jet lag, what causes jet lag, blah, blah, blah.

I’m assuming that if you’ve made it this far, you already know what jet lag is and what it feels like. You just want to get to the answers on how to avoid it.

So, what we’re going to do now is go into detail explaining “why” we listed these 6 things as the way to avoid getting jet lag in the first place.

How To Prevent Even Getting Jet Lag

It would stand to reason, if you can avoid getting jet lag, knowing what it is and why it happens isn’t really relevant.

So let’s get the discussion going by addressing the first point.

Get Uninterrupted Sleep Leading Up to the Flight

I put this first because it’s the most obvious.

We all know how it feels after a few nights of short sleep periods. We’re tired, lack focus, and we really can’t engage in the activities we have to do.

That’s not something we want to experience when the activity is going on vacation.

Therefore, the first suggestion is to make sure you get good sleep leading up to the flight.

That might be challenging.

After all, just the excitement of going on vacation is enough to keep you up. If you have children, that just adds to the problem.

But if you can, getting uninterrupted sleep means your body will be on a healthy pattern. And if that baseline is good, it will make adjusting to the new time zone even easier.

What should you do if, after all your efforts, you still can’t get good, sound sleep?

Take Vitamin D and Magnesium Before Bed

Before I get into the whys of this point, let me first say I am not a medical professional. Before taking any supplements, check with your healthcare provider to make sure what you take is safe for you.

With that out the way, let’s talk about vitamin D and magnesium.

Why Take Magnesium

According to the Cleveland Clinic, magnesium does a few things that will definitely help ease the effects of jet lag.

According to the Cleveland Clinic, magnesium will make it:

  • Easier to fall asleep
  • Improve the quality of your sleep
  • Reduce the symptoms of restless leg syndrome, which can interrupt a good night’s sleep

How Much Magnesium Should You Take?

When it comes down to dosing on how much magnesium to take, you should talk to your doctor and get blood work done.

Only then will you know if and how much magnesium your body needs in order to give you a good night’s rest.

Assuming your healthcare professional agrees with supplementing with magnesium, try to take it 30 minutes before bed at the recommended dosage.

And even if you don’t plan on traveling anytime soon, the Mayo Clinic says that taking magnesium can be a good idea for your health.

Take Vitamin D

Just as with magnesium, I have to make the disclaimer: check with your healthcare professional before taking any supplements.

According to the National Library of Medicine (part of the National Institutes of Health) 41.6% of Americans have a vitamin D deficiency.

Normally, humans get vitamin D through sunlight exposure. So if you live in an area that gets a lot of sun like Florida, Arizona, or Southern California, going outside may be all you need.

15 to 20 minutes a day, 3 times a week is recommended by the Clevland Clinic.

But if you’re not in one of those states or you have a vitamin D deficiency, you may need to supplement.

Looking back into the National Library of Medicine, “vitamin D is also involved in the pathways of production of Melatonin, the hormone involved in the regulation of human circadian rhythms and sleep”.

A lot of websites will tell you to take melatonin to make your body sleep.

I didn’t list melatonin because, if most people are deficient in vitamin D and magnesium and everyone needs these two, AND they both help you go to sleep AND vitamin D will help your body produce melatonin, why not go with what will make you healthier AND sleep better?

You might have other ways to make sure you get to sleep. If they work for you, use them to get the sleep you need prior to boarding your flight.

Limit Alcohol Consumption

This one you might disagree with. But hear me out.

Many people find that drinking alcohol helps them fall asleep quickly and sleep deeply.

I’d have to say that, in general, I fall into this category.

So if that’s true, why would I recommend not drinking alcohol if the goal is to get good sleep and avoid jet lag?

WebMD confirms that while many people do find alcohol gets them to sleep, REM sleep (rapid eye movement) is reduced.

According to WebMD, “disruptions in REM sleep may cause daytime drowsiness, poor concentration and rob you of needed ZZZs”.

That means that drinking alcohol to help you go to sleep and avoid jet lag may create the very problem we’re trying to avoid.

Limit Caffeine Consumption

I’ve seen a couple of websites recommend drinking caffeine at strategic times in order to deal with jet lag.

Most people are aware that caffeine is a stimulant. As such, it can keep you up.

The Sleep Health Foundation in Australia recommends not drinking “tea or coffee for at least 2 hours before going to bed”.

Just remember, in this case, you know your body best. You might be one who can drink caffeine before bed and it have zero negative effects on you.

I’m one of those persons too.

But since we’re talking about ways to avoid jet lag, it might be best to avoid anything with caffeine in it before bed just so we can maximize the success of avoiding jet lag.

Bring Things to Help You Sleep on the Plane

Later on, I’m going to talk about adjusting to your new time zone. But for this section, we’re going to go on the assumption that you’ll be in the air at the time you would normally be in bed.

We’ve already talked about things you can take and avoid to make sure you get to sleep.

But let’s face it: an airplane seat is nowhere near as comfortable as your bed. So getting quality sleep on the plane – even a red-eye flight – might be challenging.

So here’s some things I recommend you use to help you try to get some sleep in that uncomfortable airplane seat:

  • Eye mask: If you can limit the amount of light coming into your eyes, it should help you sleep better
  • Ear plugs: Keeping the cabin noise to a minimum will go a long way in helping you get to sleep
  • Neck pillow: Your body is going to be in some weird positions as you try to get comfortable. A neck pillow might help with your comfort
  • Light blanket: There is a possibility the cabin may be cooler than you prefer the air temperature to be to go to sleep. But don’t use the blankets on the plane. Not if you are even slightly concerned about germs

Get On the Pattern of Your New Time Zone

More than all the other recommendations on this list, getting used to the time zone in your destination is probably the most important.

When you are waking up and sleeping at the same times as everyone in your new area, it will allow you to enjoy your stay.

Now, admittedly, it will likely take at least one full day to get into the rhythm of your new time zone.

So here are some suggestions to help you do this:

Don’t Go to Sleep When Your Body Is Tired

The temptation is going to be to go to sleep because you are tired. It’s only natural, after all.

But remember, we want to avoid the feelings of jet lag.

If you go to sleep when your body says so but the people in your new time zone won’t go to sleep for another 3 hours at the minimum, it will throw you off for the next day.

In fact, you’ll wake up too early in the morning because your body will still be on your home time zone.

Let’s say the situation is reversed. It’s bedtime in your vacation location but bedtime for your home time zone isn’t for another 3 hours.

Try to force yourself to go to sleep. It will be challenging. But it will help you avoid jet lag.

Some things you can try to get you to sleep are:

  • Stop watching television an hour before bed
  • Stop using electronic devices one hour before bed
  • Earlier in the day, if possible, try to get some physical activity in like going for a walk
  • Get 15 to 20 minutes of exposure to the sun
  • Take your vitamin D and magnesium before bed

What Do You Think?

Were these suggestions helpful?

Hopefully, there were. One of the things I wanted to be sure of is not doing what so many other websites do and repeat the same points as everyone else.

These suggestions I’ve given you are things that I myself have tried as well as suggestions from others.

If you feel this was valuable, share it with family and friends so they won’t have to suffer the miserable feelings that come from jet lag.

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