No jet lag cure is equally effective for everyone, so you may need to experiment until you find what works for you. These jet lag remedies start with a smartphone app, and end with natural sleep aids. If you’re an introvert you’ll have a more difficult time overcoming jet lag – read my Sleep Tips for Introverts article to learn why and how to sleep better.
Traveling through different time zones is a big adjustment for your body. Symptoms of jet lag include insomnia, loss of appetite, decreased alertness, and depressed mood. I also feel like I’m coming down with a slight flu or headache – no jet lag experience has left me untouched physically. Jet lag is often triggered by travel to locations in different time zones, which causes misalignment of your internal body clock with external time.
If you’ve recently crossed several time zones, you’ll likely experience the symptoms of jet for a few days after the flight. During the day, you may feel physically and emotionally exhausted. At night, you’ll lie awake tossing and turning, unable to sleep. Many of your body’s functions are activated at the wrong time.
“No Jet Lag” Remedies
Sometimes there’s just no remedy for jet lag. When I wrote the first version of this article I was in a hotel room in Vienna, Austria. It was 6 am, and I’d been awake since 2:30 in the morning. I tried a natural sleep aid, and not only didn’t it work, it actually backfired! I encourage you to try jet lag remedies that don’t involve taking supplements, in case those supplements don’t sit well in your body.
1. Try the new jet lag app
“Overcoming jet lag is fundamentally a math problem and we’ve calculated the optimal way of doing it,” said Danny Forger, a professor of mathematics at the University of Michigan’s College of Literature, Science, and the Arts. “We’re certainly not the first people to offer advice about jet lag remedies, but our predictions show the best and quickest ways to adjust across time zones.”
The shortcuts the app offers for curing jet lag are custom schedules of light and darkness depending on the itinerary. The schedules boil down to one block of time each day when you should seek the brightest light possible and another when you should put yourself in the dark, or at least in dim light. To learn more about this no jet lag remedy, visit the Entrain jet lag app.
2. Consider a natural sleep aid
My husband took a natural sleep aid on our first night in Vienna, and slept through the night without any side effects the next day. I was up at 2:30 a.m. that night too, listening to him snore! I didn’t want to take a sleeping pill. The next night I broke down and took one…and slept through the night, but was sick the whole next day. I think it was the aftereffects of the sleeping pill: nausea, grogginess, headache, and general gross feelings.
Lewis N. Clark No-Jet-Lag Homeopathic Remedy fights fatigue, and has received about 300 positive reviews on Amazon.com.
I still think a sleep aid might be a good jet lag remedy in theory, but different types of sleep aids affect people differently. How do you know which sleep aid works best for you? You need to try different ones until you find what works.
3. Learn why sleep aids are used as remedies for jet lag
In 10 Natural Sleep Remedies, I describe why melatonin is in most natural sleep aids or supplements. Melatonin is a hormone that the body produces naturally; it causes drowsiness and a drop in body temperature. Some natural sleep aids – like Tylenol – contain melatonin. Some sleep experts say increasing melatonin at night is a good remedy for jet lag, but others disagree.
Researchers from the University of Alberta found no evidence that melatonin is effective in treating secondary sleep disorders or sleep disturbance in people with jet lag. There is evidence that melatonin is safe with short term use, but further studies are needed to determine its long term safety.
4. Try an anti-jet lag diet?
My research uncovered a study claiming that a tailored diet is one of the best jet lag remedies. It calculates time differences between departure and destination cities, and specifies key meal times to help you overcome the debilitating fatigue and sleepiness associated with jet lag. No way this is true – when I researched a “jet lag diet” further, I discovered all sorts of myths and tips for eating to cure jet lag…but no facts.
5. Set a regular sleep and wake schedule right away
This is one of the best remedies for jet lag because it’s natural and effective. The sooner you set your sleep and wake schedule – even before you travel – the quicker your body will adjust to the new time zone. This is probably the most natural way to cure jet lag. You might also want to consider light therapy if you’re prone to mild bouts of depression due to fatigue or sleeplessness.
6. Find ways to distract yourself at night
When I can’t sleep – such when I was in Vienna – the last thing I want to do is lie in bed and listen to my husband snore! One of the best jet lag remedies is to distract yourself from your sleeplessness: read a novel, write in your journal, plan your itinerary, check your email if you have a laptop and wireless connection, watch TV, write a letter or postcard to people back home. These tips are also great ways to avoid feeling homesick while traveling – because when you’re tired and can’t sleep in the middle of the night, you’re most vulnerable to sadness and depression.
7. Don’t nap for longer than 20 minutes in the day
This has been my colossal mistake when I was fighting jet lag on my last trip trip to Europe: I slept for over an hour in the afternoons. Napping can be beneficial, but not if it turns into a deep REM or rapid eye movement sleep. No jet lag remedy worth its salt encourages people to nap for more than an hour a day.
8. Experiment with ear plugs to cure jet lag
One of the most common jet lat remedies is to stick ear plugs in your ears, because when you do fall asleep, you may be sleeping lighter and thus easily woken up by unfamiliar hotel noises (or familiar snoring noises!). My husband uses ear plugs when he travels, and that may be why he’s been sleeping though the night since we left home. I’m almost ready to try them myself, but can’t yet stomach the idea of sticking squishy little things into my ears.
9. Talk to your doctor about a prescription for a jet lag drug
Dr Shantha Rajaratnam from Monash University’s School of Psychology, Psychiatry and Psychological Medicine said tasimelteon, a drug which acts on melatonin receptors in the brain, could be a highly effective treatment for jet lag and circadian rhythm sleep disorders. Tasimelteon is able to effectively shift the rhythm of melatonin levels in the body and improve the quality and quantity of sleep for people with transient insomnia caused by jet lag. Talk to your doctor about this remedy for jet lag – you’ll need a prescription.
10. Embrace the lag, dude
We’re not genetically pre-disposed to quickly adapt to shift work or long-haul flights; our bodies’ clocks are built to resist such rapid changes. When we “fight” or try to beat jet lag, we’re actually working against our body’s natural rhythms. No jet lag remedies have been found that are successful in overcoming jet lag because it goes against our natural tendencies. The more I travel, the more I realize no jet lag remedy works for me – other than sticking to a regular sleep and wake schedule. But not everybody is like me – my husband, for instance, took a natural sleep aid that helped him overcome jet lag quickly. That’s the other thing to embrace: the fact that no jet lag remedy works for everyone.
If you have any thoughts on these jet lag remedies, please comment below…I’d love to hear from you, and perhaps gain a few more tips for overcoming jet lag.
The best tip for overcoming jet lag is probably to find ways to prevent it from happening. That, my friend, is well nigh impossible. I think.