Jet lag can put a serious crimp in your longhaul travels, making you feel exhausted, scatter-brained, or even physically ill. The good news is that there are a few things you can do to alleviate the symptoms and in some cases avoid jet lag altogether. Here are a few classic strategies -- and a few alternative methods, just to be safe.
Acclimate before you go.
Jet lag occurs when your body’s internal clock, or circadian rhythms, doesn't match your destination’s external cues for sleeping and eating. In other words, you might fly halfway across the world and find yourself ready to snooze after lunch or starving for breakfast after midnight. Minimize the effects of jet lag by easing into the new time zone’s routine before you go. Depending on the time difference, try sleeping in later -- or eating earlier in the day. Even a few hours can make a big difference.
If you have a long way to go and some flexibility in your schedule, you can even consider breaking up your trip into segments. Spend a few days in a city midway to your destination, adjust to that routine, and then continue your travels.
Dehydration can make the symptoms of jet lag worse. Even if you don’t feel thirsty, plan to drink at least 8 ounces of water for every hour you’re in the air. You'll want to limit alcohol and caffeine, too -- both dehydrate, and the later also disrupts your sleep patterns whenever you do fall asleep.
Get some rest -- then stay active.
Skip the all-night bon voyage party and opt for a solid eight hours of sleep instead. The more well-rested you are when you land, the better prepared you’ll be to deal with jet lag. If you’re traveling overnight or flying west to east (losing time), get some additional rest on the plane. Traveling during the day or going the opposite direction (gaining time)? Get a head start on adjusting to being active during your destination's daytime hours by taking a stroll down the aisle, when it's safe to do so.
Let there be light.
Light is a powerful cue for the body. Depending on which direction you travel, you can reset your clock by exposing yourself to bright light or avoiding it at key times. As you're preparing to fly east for a trip, for example, you'll want to start getting bright morning light and then start sticking to dim rooms or using sunglasses in the afternoon (when it becomes evening at your destination). Before you go home, you'll want get more afternoon and evening light exposure (since it'll still be daytime in the west).
Go on a diet.
Some people swear by the four-day Argonne Anti-Jet-Lag Diet, which requires you to alternately feast (eat a high protein breakfast and lunch followed by a high carb dinner) and fast (eat only light meals of soup and salad). You'd start with the feast, with a high protein breakfast at your destination’s breakfast time, on the day of your flight. Note: There's no empirical evidence to date that any anti-jet lag diet has proven entirely effective.
Some studies suggest that melatonin -- a hormone naturally produced in the body during nighttime -- can help reset your internal clock. Melatonin supplements are sometimes used to treat jet lag, but you may want to consult a doctor for more information and exact dosage beforehand, since there can be side effects like headaches. If you don't like taking pills, some foods -- like certain grains, fruits, and meat -- do help boost melatonin.
The foundation of acupressure lies in that each organ has a corresponding point on the body, and that organ functions optimally at a specific time of the day. To get the body into a different time zone, some use these acupressure principles to stimulate these "horary points" when the cycles should be occurring at the destination. For example, 1 a.m. corresponds to the liver. When it is 1 a.m. at your destination, you would tap a specific, corresponding spot near the big toe 20 times. At 3 a.m., you would similarly tap a spot on the wrist to stimulate the lungs. This process would continue, every two hours, with different horary points until arrival.