The Ultimate Guide to Jet Lag

Don’t let jet lag drag you down!

You’ve scrimped, you have saved – for months or even longer. The last thing you want is half your trip being ruined because of jet lag!

Daytime fatigue, insomnia, lack of drive, and even gastro problems. It’s all temporary, but it can significantly interfere with your travel plans if you don’t prepare in advance for it .

Jet lag affects everyone traveling across multiple time zones. Each of us has an internal clock signaling the body when to stay awake and when to sleep. When you cross time zones, your internal clock is no longer synced. One or two time zones might not be too noticeable, but when crossing multiple time zones (8 going to France), you are likely to experience a bad case of jet lag.

BTW, the direction you travel and your age do make a difference. Traveling east causes more jet lag than west, probably due to the greater difficulty of advancing rather than delaying the body’s internal clock.  So, your arrival in France will be more difficult than your return to North America.  

If you are in your 20’s – expect 2 days of jet lag, 30’s = 3 days, 40’s = 4 days, 50’s = 5 days. Each day is a little easier, but it does take time to adjust.

GGG’s 25 tips to help you beat jet lag 

I’ve logged many flight hours in my time – below are my favorite tips, plus a few unconventional ideas that might just do the trick! Believe me, you’ll be ready to try just about anything!

Time Tested Tips

1.Book your tickets early – Basics here! Not only will you get the best deal, but you can insure that you aren’t stuck in the middle seat or arriving at the worst time possible.

2. Choose your seat wisely– Get a window seat so you can lean against the window.  If you can afford it, pay for the extra leg room for even more comfort.  Avoid seats in galleys, near washrooms, and at the back of a plane which are bumpier. Seatguru.com will help you choose the best seat available.

The Ultimate Guide to Jet Lag

3. Avoid arriving at night – When traveling to France, I prefer to arrive in the morning and go about my day immediately. By the time evening comes around, I am more than ready for an early bedtime (but not too early) and good rest. Make sure to wake up in the morning to the local time, sleeping in will only delay getting adjusted to the new time zone.

4. Arrive a few days early – If at all possible, give yourself a couple of days to recover upon arrival, especially if you plan to do anything strenuous. You’ll thank yourself for it – trust me!

5. Don’t be tired before your leave – Another basic. If you are tired before you have even left, you’re just asking for trouble.  That means no late-night packing! Make sure to get your packing done way before your fly date.  If you need to book a hotel closer to the airport, do that rather than get up excruciatingly early.

6. Trick your internal clock – Stay on the same hours as your new destination by gradually shifting your bedtime. Use dark or blue-blocker sunglasses to remove light exposure when you’re outside at a time when ideally you need to be in the dark to help you adapt to your new time zone.  Once onboard, set your watch to your destination time zone. Then encourage your body to mistake early morning light for evening dusk., or evening light for early morning light, by wearing sunglasses to avoid bright light in the morning, and then allow as much sunlight as possible in the late afternoon.

7. Don’t get sick – Airplanes are notorious for spreading germs.  Take preventative measures by taking Vitamin C and Oregano Oil 2x daily the week before you fly, and three days after arrival. If you do get sick, check out my article on “The perils of flying with a sinus infection“.

8. Probiotics– Disruptions in the circadian clock can throw off the balance of the microbes in your gut, and the low air pressure triggers the gases in your gut to expand. All of this can spell trouble for many of us, try taking probiotics 2 weeks before, during, and after your trip.  In addition, probiotics help improve the immune system and decrease risk of airborne illnesses that are so common with flying.

9. Take supplements– Try 1Above that is formulated to ease the effects of jet lag and the mental and physical stress of traveling (take 1 tablet every 2-3 hrs during flight while awake).  Melatonin is a classic to help regulate your hormones and adapt your sleep cycle upon arriving, try 3 to 6mg for the first few days. Vitamin B and C will help with energy once you arrive, or try a caffeine supplement such as Stacks Smart Caffeine. Take a cue from Erin Bunch, there really is a supplement to ease all your jet lag symptoms!

The Ultimate Guide to Jet Lag

10. Hydration is crucial – Skip the caffeine/alcohol, and drink plenty of water or herbal tea onboard.  Airplanes are notorious for their dry air, wreaking havoc on your body.  Spray organic rose water often on your face to keep it hydrated. Once at your destination, take a long hot shower, and then turn on the coldest setting to trigger a hormone response akin to what normally occurs when waking up.

11. Time your meals – Your body’s clock may be feeling it’s still 4 am at home, but it’s time for breakfast in Paris. Eat meals based on your new time zone. This often means sleeping when the meal is served on a plane, so either ask the flight attendant to set aside your meal until you wake, or bring all your own food (my preference). Let’s be frank, beyond the cool factor, the quality of airplane food is horrendous.  High sodium, high carb, overly processed, and unidentifiable additives – all microwaved to mush.  Bring light, fresh foods that are low in sodium.  Once arrived at your destination is the right time for a large quality carb-heavy breakfast to release insulin that will help with re-establishing your internal clock. The meal protocol  developed by a chronobiologist at the Argonne National Laboratory in Illinois, was shown to significantly reduce occurrence of jet lag. Or, make it easy and try fasting foregoing food altogether! Eat a healthy light meal before you leave, then skip all inflight meals until the breakfast before you land.

12. Stretch – Long flights can cause medical issues to even the most relatively your and fit due to the cramped conditions and inability to move around easily.  Try inflight yoga pose to keep your blood flowing onboard.

13. Relax– Breath – Try deep breathing exercises using a breath pacer app. Air travel is associated with a drop-in blood oxygen levels due to low cabin pressure. This can definitely leave you feeling out of it. Try deep breathing exercises to bring you back to center. A few spritzes of a topical magnesium spray can help relax the body, too.

The Ultimate Guide to Jet Lag

14. Skip the movies and sleep instead – Don’t watch the movies if you can help it, try snoozing instead.  Even if you are not actually sleeping, it will still help considerably to just rest.  Melatonin can be helpful for some to fall asleep, but only if you are deficient in this hormone, otherwise it will not help). It can however help you normalize your sleep cycle to your destination time zone upon arriving. Try 3 to 6mg about four hours before you plan on sleeping on the plane.  Bring ear plugs to block out the noise or use headphones with sleep music, slip on a sleep sack or cozy up with a blanket and pillow (inflatable lumbar pillows are awesome as well), and cover your eyes with an eye mask or your hoodie.  If you want some privacy, use a blank to make a tent.  Slippers are also handy for bathroom trips. If you are in the dreaded middle seat, try some of the new innovative pillow designs like the turtle type of neck pillow or the inflatable upper body pillow that tucks in front of you.

The Ultimate Guide to Jet Lag

15. Sunlight is your best friend– Get out in the sunshine as soon as possible after arriving to help reset your internal clock. Some kind of exercise will get the metabolism running back to speed – anything from fast paced walking to a jog through the Coulée verte René-Dumont. You could even use your suitcase as a weight for lifting if you are so inclined/

16. Take a soak – Thermal baths have been proven to increase circulation, benefit skin and muscle pains, lower cortisol levels (which produce stress), relieve fatigue, and improve sleep.  Paris is well known for the their Hammam’s, or book a hotel with a spa where you can soak your way into relaxation.  The hotel bathtub or shower can work in a pinch.

17. Your first night’s sleep – Avoid naps, especially between the hours of 12-3pm, and if you do indulge keep them to just 1 hour (set your alarm).  Avoid sleeping pills, as they will only make you groggy and won’t help with REM sleep and make sure your room is completely dark for sleeping with no blue or red lights beeping in the night. Take Melatonin (3-6mg) about 30 to 60 min before bedtime to fall asleep faster, sleep longer, and be more alert the following day.  Melatonin will also help you reset your sleep cycle to the new time zone. Gentle stretching exercises like yoga can be helpful. In fact, the “Viparita Karani” pose (legs up the wall) is the natural way of making your cortisol levels drop getting you ready for a good nights sleep!

Unconventional Tips for the Truly Desperate

The Ultimate Guide to Jet Lag

18. Restricted Environmental Stimulation Therapy (REST) – Also known as isolation tanks or flotation therapy.  Try www.meiso.fr located in Paris and large cities around France, or www.floatationlocations.com

19. Watsu – Water shiatsu is a form of massage that takes place in a pool of warm water. The sensation of zero gravity enables you to relax every single muscle, letting go of deep-seated tensions finding sleep more easily. Try the Royal Monceau Spa in Paris, or watsufrance.fr for providers around France.

20. Bright light therapy lamps – Travel sized LED light boxes or bright light glasses use a series of LED globes to deliver bright light directly to the eyes without the need to bother others.  Useful when the optimum light exposure times occur during the dark in your destination port.

21. High tech sleep mask – For the techno enthusiast, the GloToSleep Mask uses gently dimming light to help you fall asleep.

22. Sound Therapy – Typical sound therapy sessions surround guests with a mix of sounds at varying frequencies in a darkened room. Vibrational frequencies at 528hz in particular have been shown to aid in better sleep quality after jet lag and overall wellness, create your own playlist for onboard and your first few nights. White noise travel machines can help lull you into deep sleep as well.

23. Earthing and Forest Bathing – Take off your shoes and walk through the grass after you arrive at your destination, or hike through the forest (albeit that might be difficult in Paris, try the Bois de Boulogne or Versailles).

24. Aerial yoga – Take your yoga into the airs!  Real yoga, but suspended by fabric  and very rejuvenating.   Fly Yoga in Paris, or AntiGravity Fitness Studios around France.

25. IV infusion lounge – If you can find one, they are very popular among airline crews and frequent travelers where guests can soak up IV cocktails of vitamins in the comfort of a comfy recliner.

Happy (well-rested) Travels,
-Girl Gone Gallic

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