You have booked your trip, and you are heading to a new time zone. Jet lag is no fun so I am sharing 10 tips and tricks to help you adjust to the new time zone and feel better rested so you can enjoy your time.
1) If you are travelling east, try to go to bed a little earlier for a few nights before you leave (and wake up a little earlier than usual).
By gradually shifting your schedule before you go, it won’t be as much of a surprise to your body and you shouldn’t feel as tired when you arrive. Shift everything earlier (when you wake, when you eat and when you go to sleep etc).
2) If you are travelling west, go to bed an hour or two later for a few nights before you leave.
As with tip 1, shift your entire schedule gradually in the few days/week before your trip so that when you arrive, you are close to your new time. Obviously you won’t shift 5 hours, but even 1-2 hours in the week before you leave can help.
3) Try to book your flight so that you arrive by early evening and then stay up until your regular bedtime (local time).
4) Avoid caffeine late in the day.
Sarah Remmer, RD tells me that caffeine does flush out of your system between 3-7 hours after consumed. That means technically one should enjoy their last cup of coffee in the mid-afternoon. But, this is just an approximation as it really depends on how an individual’s body reacts to caffeine, their habits, if they are a consistent coffee drinker and their sleep schedule. If you think caffeine is affecting your sleep it would be beneficial to change your evening or late afternoon cup to an early afternoon cup. I recommend not drinking coffee past about 2pm, and instead opting for water or unsweetened herbal tea to quench thirst.
5) Stay hydrated; drink a lot of water and/or herbal teas.
Dehydration can have a negative impact on our health during the day, but it can also impact your sleep. People who are moderately dehydrated can have a harder time falling and staying asleep.
6) Eat small meals – especially if you arrive at your destination in the late evening.
Going to bed on a full stomach can impact your sleep – and not in a good way. Also, eating too much earlier in the day could tempt you to nap. Eat well and eat often as your body adjusts to the new time zone.
7) Avoid napping during the day – save your sleep for night.
If you must nap, try to limit it to 30 minutes maximum. If you are still tired, get outside for a walk and some fresh air.
8) Let the sun shine in when it is time to start the day.
Exposure to light acts like a switch to turn off melatonin, our sleep hormone.
9) Take a few comforts from home.
Ear plugs or an eye mask, even a white noise machine to help make your surroundings familiar. If you have a favourite pillow – try to pack it. Whatever will help you sleep better!
10) When you get home, plan on an earlier bedtime to help make up for lost sleep while you were away, and give yourself a few days to adjust.
Making bedtime 30 minutes earlier for one week will help you to chip away at the sleep debt accrued on vacation.
Have fun, and be safe!
For tips on traveling to a new time zone with kids, check out my article: Helping Your Baby Sleep When Traveling to a Different Time Zone