Vacation time zone changes, no matter how big or small, can heavily impact the quality of our trip while we struggle to adjust. Instead of falling asleep in your plate of homemade pasta in Italy, tossing and turning in the middle of the night in Maui, or dozing off during your Caribbean sailing tour, try these tips and tricks for curing jet lag once and for all.
GET AFTER IT!
After you land in a faraway place, your first inclination may be to take a little snooze — especially if you just come in on a red-eye flight. Instead, set your baggage down at the hotel, quickly refresh your outfit, then head right back out. The best way to beat jet lag is to start adjusting right away and “fake it ‘til you make it”. Try as much as you can to stick to the flow of the current time zone. It will be difficult for the first day or so, so give yourself grace with an earlier bedtime or quick 20-minute power nap when needed. Just don’t waste your precious vacation hours in bed midday!
SLOWLY ADJUST YOUR SLEEP SCHEDULE
For the advance planners traveling ahead in time zones, this schedule hack can help prepare you for your trip well in advance. Two weeks (or more) leading up to your trip, adjust your alarm clock each day, bit by bit. Start by setting your alarm clock 10 minutes earlier each morning. These small, incremental movements of your clock can help train your mind and body for time changes by getting you closer to waking up —and functioning — at the local time.
While practicing earlier wake-up times, be sure to do the same with the time you get into bed at night. Instead of just trying to go to sleep 10 minutes earlier, shoot for a slightly longer adjustment like 20 – 30 minutes as it can sometimes take longer to fall asleep when your schedule changes.
STICK TO A BEDTIME ROUTINE
Whether it is a ritual or a random arrangement of activities, we all have a series of habits and tasks we complete before bedtime. Having a set bedtime routine helps signal your body it is time for bed, queueing it up to slow down and relax. No matter where you are in the world, stick to your bedtime routine.
If you don’t have one yet, here’s a good way to start. About forty minutes before lights out, wash your face and take care of your skin, brush your teeth, turn on a low lamp, and read before drifting off. For others, trying a meditation or breathing practice can also help. Discover what works for you then carry that routine with you wherever you go. Now that your body is signaled for bed, this leads us to...
KEEP A MORNING ROUTINE
Just as a nighttime routine helps cue us it’s time to sleep, having a set morning routine awakens our mind and body to greet the day. Rather than rolling over to grab your phone and scroll through emails — there are many benefits of unplugging while on vacation — reach for a glass of water instead. Once you’re hydrated (key for proper brain and body function), pour a cup of coffee or tea and prepare yourself for the day. This could look like reaching for a journal or book, setting off for a brisk walk or completing a workout, getting dressed, and sitting down for breakfast. Discover what works best for you and stick to it, even on vacation.
Still feeling sleepy? Take a shower complete with a short, 30-second blast of cold water at the end. It is a surefire way to wake your body right up — cold showers have also been said to pack a punch of health benefits, to boot.
GET SOME SUNSHINE
Sunlight helps to adjust our circadian rhythm, which syncs us with the day to rise and fall asleep at appropriate times easier. Vacation time zone changes can leave us feeling lethargic at inopportune moments. Getting outside and soaking up the sun can help ease the transition. Take a walk, especially first thing in the morning to get your blood flowing. This is also a great way to explore your surroundings, no matter where in the world you are. Dig your feet in the sand and stretch at the beach. Walk through the mountain town to find a cup of coffee, which bonus — will keep your hands warm on the walk back. Take a sidewalk stroll and watch the city come to life.
Hot tip: Try taking “rising with the sun” to a new level by sleeping with your blinds open to allow the gradual natural light to wake you up more naturally.