After being back in the States for the last week, I have once again, overcome my jet lag. Here are five tips on how to defeat that awful jet lag. And yes, this photo is of me in Amsterdam on my way back from a trip last year. James was so kind to take this incredibly flattering photo of me.
1. Move to the new time zone immediately
As soon as I board the plane, I change my watch to match the current time of my destination and do my best to mentally and physically follow whatever my watch says, even when it feels contrary to what my body says. I eat when it's mealtime, sleep when it's bedtime and force myself to stay awake if it's daytime. It's a shock to the body, but you can tackle the jet lag quickly if you fight it immediately.
2. Arrive at night
The first time I flew to Africa, I landed at 6am. That day still goes down in history as one of the most painful experiences of trying to stay awake throughout that entire day. Ever since, I have chosen to land between 5-7p which allows me to simply get to my hotel, take a shower and go to bed. Same thing coming home, I try to land in Nashville no earlier than 4p to ensure that I only have to stay awake for a few more hours before being able to go to sleep.
3. Find a suitable sleep aid
Jet lag is nearly impossible to overcome quickly if you continue to wake up at 3am and find it impossible to go back to sleep. A sleep aid allows you to ensure that you get the sleep that your body needs to face another upside-down day of jet lag. It's really important that you talk to your doctor about which medication is right for you for jet lag. I used to use Ambien, but it can be dangerous (just ask James about my hallucination experiences), so I recommend something less intense like lunesta, lorazepam or, some would say that melatonin works. But this is the most crucial thing I bring with me to Africa (second to my passport and malaria medication).
4. Get outside
Your body will adjust to the new time zone so much quicker when you spend your day in as much sunlight as possible. It allows your body (that is convinced that it's night) to be told by the UV rays that it is actually daytime. I have a much harder time adjusting back to the US in the winter because I am inside during the days when I return. In the spring and summer, I make sure to take long walks and sit in the sun as much as possible during the first couple of days upon my return. Exercise outside is a great way to help your body adjust.
5. Get Accountability
Whether it's a family member or a roommate, you need someone to help you defeat your jet lag. Left to your own devices, you will likely give in to the need to sleep at a time when it is least productive for your recovery. It's important to have someone who will make sure you wake up from your nap, who will keep you on your feet to stay awake through the hard moments and who will encourage you through the strange fog of crossed time zones.
What about you? Do you have any jet lag tips to share?