There’s no single cure for jet lag. Everyone’s bodies are different, and what works for one traveler may not work for another. But you may well find a remedy that works for you among these strategies used by travel experts and frequent globe-trotters.
- The caffeine-control method
“It’s all about the control of caffeine intake. Two days before an overseas trip, I abstain from all caffeine. Then, when I arrive at the destination, I wait until it feels like my muscles are turning into cement and I’m going to fall asleep right on the pavement. That’s when I order a double espresso. The caffeine hits my system like horsepower, and I’m able to go the rest of the day and sleep like a rock at night.”
- The cold-medicine method
“Doctor-prescribed sleep aids don’t seem to do much for me. I have long been a big fan of over-the-counter NyQuil. Regardless of where and when I arrive, I force myself to stay up until 10 or 11 pm, then take two NyQuil. I awaken the next morning and convince myself I am jet-lag-free and go about my business—no midday naps allowed.”
—Patricia Schultz, author, 1,000 Places to See Before You Die
- The early-to-rise method
“To minimize jet lag going from West to East—say, California to Europe—I start a regimen, ten days ahead of departure, of waking up 20 minutes earlier each day. The first day it’s at 5:40 a.m., the second day at 5:20 a.m., third day 5:00 a.m., etc. Likewise with my eating times. By departure day, I’m 3.5 to 4 hours closer to local time at my destination. With a 9-hour time-zone difference, it helps a lot.”
- The early-to-bed method
“No matter how tired you are upon arrival, avoid lengthy naps that prolong the adjustment period. On the first day, make it through dinner, go to bed early, and don’t allow your body to sleep in on the first morning. If the time change is drastic, sleep aids can be very helpful for the first two to three nights.”
—Amie O’Shaughnessy, founder, Ciao Bambino!
- The sleep-on-the-plane method
“In my mind, everything starts with the flight. If I can arrive well-rested, I’m already off to a good start. First, I choose a window seat, which allows me to prop a pillow (or a sweatshirt) against the wall of the plane for maximum comfort. It also reduces the odds that I’ll be woken up by seatmates who need to use the bathroom. I never drink alcohol on long flights, because it dehydrates you and increases the effects of jetlag. And I try not to spend much, if any, time staring at the seatback entertainment or my iPad, because they emit short-wavelength light (also called blue light) that disrupts your body’s natural production of melatonin. Instead, I read a book on my Kindle Paperwhite—a dedicated eReader designed for reading in low light without disruptive blue light—and I take a few milligrams of natural melatonin supplement once we’re at cruising altitude. I’m usually asleep within a half hour.”
—Josh Roberts, managing editor, Smarter Travel
- The stay-awake-on-the-plane method
“I put myself on the destination’s time zone the day before departure by counting backwards the hours I’ll be in transit. For example, if I’m taking off at 6 p.m., the flight is 12 hours long, and I land at 6 p.m., I’ll sleep the entire day before so I’m awake the entire flight. When I get in, I’ll be on the destination’s time zone.”
— Matthew Kepnes, budget travel expert, Nomadic Matt
- The late-arrival method
“When flying from the U.S. to Europe, try to book a flight that arrives in the late afternoon or evening rather than early morning. Have dinner, go to bed, and pretend the nine-hour difference doesn’t exist.”
—Colombe McCarthy, Europe director, Destinations & Adventures International
- The pajamas-and-bedtime-story method
“On long flights to Southeast Asia, to get the kids to sleep on the plane, we get pajamas on, read a book, and then snuggle down. Keeping the routine the same really helps kids fall asleep. Also, dehydration makes jetlag worse, so carry your own water bottle and have them fill it up on the plane and keep drinking.”
—Andrea Ross, CEO, Journeys Within Tour Company
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