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Beating Jet Lag

Jet lag—the bane of every traveler’s existence.

Exhaustion, loss of appetite, irritability, and a host of other symptoms—all caused by our body clock’s inability to change time zones as fast as we do.

And while no prevention or cure has yet been discovered, there are some reliable ways to plan for and deal with, this often inevitable travel woe.

Before you leave
If you are traveling overseas or experiencing a significant change in time zones, consider arriving to your destination a day early. Having a “recovery” day before joining a cruise or group tour can allow you extra time for your body to adjust.

Most tour operators offer trip extensions, or pre-tours, in the first city of a travel program, which allows you to combine additional leisure time with a couple of extra good nights of sleep.

If traveling in an easterly direction (which usually has the worst effects), switch your bedtime to an hour or two earlier a few days before departure, to help your body’s transition.

On the plane
If taking an overnight flight, make sure to pack items to aid with sleeping—a sleep mask, earplugs, comfortable socks, and a pillow can really make a difference during your flight.

Stay away from alcohol and caffeine, and drink as much water as possible. Staying hydrated while traveling (especially in the dry cabin of an airplane) is critical to helping your body adjust to new climates and time zones.

Eat light and healthy. Heavy, greasy or spicy foods take more time to digest and can cause an upset stomach

After arrival
If arriving during the daytime, do not nap. Try to exercise, or get outside for a brisk walk—this will help your body understand that it’s not time for bed.

Continue to stay well-hydrated and beware of caffeine late in the day, as it may affect your ability to fall asleep later.

Stay up until your normal bedtime, then follow your regular evening routine. A dark, quiet, cool room will help you get the most restful sleep.

Many travelers find the supplement melatonin to be very helpful. Talk with your doctor to see if it might be an option for you.

Jet lag, while annoying, can be minimized and dealt with, leaving travelers free to enjoy new adventures, albeit while still looking forward to a good night's sleep.