How To Kick Jet Lag/Travel Fatigue’s Ass

Hey, it's me. Mr Airplane. Just waiting here, ready to screw up your mind, body and soul.
Hey, it’s me. Mr Airplane. Just waiting here, ready to screw up your mind, body and soul.

Did you know I just returned from Australia & New Zealand? Of course you do, because I won’t STFU about it.

Prior to our trip down under, people loved asking about the flight time and time difference. I still don’t exactly know the time difference, but I know it’s a lot of hours (and a day ahead). Honestly, I didn’t want to know. Dwelling on it just makes jet lag worse. It’s not all in your head, but I think largely ignoring time differences is a huge help in conquering jet lag. Here’s how I do that.

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Set it & Forget it.

If this still says what time it is at home, you're grounded!
If this still says what time it is at home, you’re grounded!

Once I am at my departure gate, the current time is dead to me. I’ll set my phone and watch (ha, as if I wear one) to my final destination’s time. Nothing reinforces the fact that you should be feeling like crap if you’re getting breakfast on the plane “but it’s really 7pm back in [blank].” NO! Believe it’s whatever time your clock now says, not what it said yesterday when you were sunning yourself on the beach in Tahiti.

Sleep on the Plane.

The flight from Dallas to Sydney is 18 hours. It’s the third longest flight on earth.

Yeah, I know. That’s a lot of time.

But this is actually good for jet lag because it gives you enough time to play into the airline’s overnight game– where everyone pretends like it’s dinnertime when you leave and breakfast when you land. In between those times, I get to watch a movie or two, guilt-free! But then you must squeeze in a few hours of usually uncomfortable, limb-numbing sleep.

Some folks swear by Tylenol PM or Ambien. I avoid the first because it makes me feel like junk when I wake up. I’d never take Ambien in public because I’m not entirely sure I wouldn’t end up naked, surfing down the aisle on a beverage cart.

Instead, I rely on an eye mask and regular ol’ earplugs. Something like this. So simple! If you’re lucky, you can actually get six or seven hours of sleep on a really long flight. You can’t do that on the measly eight-hour flight to Europe!

Next thing you know, they are serving breakfast. And then you’re landing.

Say Yes to Liquids.

This is pretty obvious, but I’m saying it anyhow. Drink every non-alcoholic beverage that comes your way. Hydration is key! It keeps your insides from drying out and makes you have to get up and stretch your legs en route to the tiny bathrooms.

You can also say yes to booze, but maybe only once (like wine before you fall asleep).

Once You’ve Arrived, Force Yourself to Stay Awake.

The biggest obstacle in the fight against jet lag: Staying up until it’s appropriate to retire for the night.

I say that means until sunset local time, which could be really hard if you arrive at 7am. Drink a coffee/tea/coke or drink a 5 Hour Energy (I hate to say it, but nothing works as well!) and spend as little time in your hotel room as you can.

Go Outside & Get Some Exercise

Your hotel room is poison until sunset! Do this instead.
Your hotel room is poison until sunset! Do this instead.

Natural sunlight cues your body’s circadian rhythm and exercise get the blood pumping, You don’t have to do a 10-miler or anything, just walking around town will help your body adjust to the new time zone. So on day one, plan a fun, low-key activity outside. And if it helps, pretend your hotel room is hot lava until the sunsets.

Eat your greens.

Everybody poops… except when they are traveling. Call it a jet lag symptom or a lack of a “safe toilet” issue, this is what happens when our bodies are out of whack. Try to eat lots of fruits and veggies to keep things moving.

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How do you deal with jet lag? Has anyone tried taking melatonin? I hear that works, too.

PS here are some other travel related things… like the time I brought a puppy through US Customs (and if you are going to Cancun/Playa del Carmen/Cozumel from the states, you can too!) and the time I went on a trip to Arkansas with almost strangers.

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Comments (5)

  • Joe Harper 6 years ago Reply

    You’re right that the flight to Europe is too short for anything except a few brief naps. That’s why I drink as much alcohol as possible, so I can sleep. But an hour from landing I start on the tomato juice, which is a natural hangover remedy but also has the fiber that you recommend.

    molly mogren katt 6 years ago Reply

    The only natural hangover remedy that works for me is sleep and Taco Bell. 😉

  • Phyll 6 years ago Reply

    1000% on the exercise! I just discovered that recently and it helps so so much.

    This is just a travel tip in general but it helps to bring an empty water bottle onto the plane (and honestly for most trips!) and just have the flight attendant fill it up all the way! Nothing worse than being half asleep & thirsty with the flight attendants on the other end of the plane – which do you choose?? it’s like the opposite of needing to pee & not wanting to get out of bed yet.

    molly mogren katt 6 years ago Reply

    The empty water bottle is a good one. Who honestly drinks water one ounce at a time?! Those little cups they hand you are brutal! We brought a serious canteen kind of deal with us and the flight attendants had no problem keeping the water a-comin.

  • Your old neighbor 6 years ago Reply

    Me? I try to get a late afternoon flight out of MSP, when I’m flying East. Once we’re in the air I start my anti-jet lag routine.

    If I am flying coach (alas, it happens more often than not) I find a row that is empty (happens more often that not) and hunker down. Unloading my carryon onto the empty seat next to me begins…water bottle, check…book, reading glasses, earbuds, serious snack. Now I’m ready for 8 hours of flying. It’s like having my own bedside table!

    After a divine and scrumptious airline dinner (😝), a glass of wine, a movie and a Tylenol PM (I’m with ya on the dancing naked drug) I’m ready to don my black silk sleeping mask. It’s really quite a fashion statement. I have added a six inch strip of yellow masking tape across the front, and in not so perfect penmanship, it reads… "DO NOT WAKE"! (Under that, in fine print…unless I need to use my bottom seat cushion as a floatation device…j/k). In less time than it takes to say "Rip Van Winkle" I’m asleep. And…

    Voila! Before I know it, I’ve crossed the Atlantic and a friendly voice from 35,000 feet tells me we are starting our decent and the local time is 8:00am. Time to pack up my nightstand.

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