Many of our guests who travel great distances to join us have trouble adjusting to the time difference in their destination city. Here are some tips on how to avoid the dreaded “jet lag”.
What is “jet lag”?
When you travel to another time zone, this will inevitably throw off your internal clock, making you feel groggy, fatigued, and all around just a bit off – that’s what you call jet lag. It is due to the fact that our bodies follow a “circadian rhythm”, a 24-hour pattern of wakefulness and sleep influenced by our exposure to light and darkness. Our bodies are used to waking up and sleeping at generally the same time each day, and when we change time zones, this could mean your body’s normal bedtime is early in the afternoon in your new time zone. Usually getting over jet lag can take up to 3-4 days in order for your body to adjust its rhythms, depending on exactly how many time zones you have crossed.
Flying eastwards can make it a bit harder for you to adjust to the new time zone, when compared to flying westwards. That is because for many it is more difficult to get up earlier than it is to stay up later. However, if you are used to getting up rather early, flying eastwards may be a little bit easier on you than for people who generally stay up late. And vice versa, if you are a night owl, you will have less trouble adjusting if you are traveling westwards.
How can you avoid jet lag or at least minimize it?
Be healthy and well rested. The more you rest before your big travel, the easier it will be to adjust to your new time zone.
Start to adjust your internal clock before your trip. Several days before you fly, try staying up later (if traveling westwards) or getting to bed earlier (if traveling eastwards).
Stay hydrated! Drink as much water as you possibly can. You can bring empty reusable water bottles through security and fill them at water fountains usually found near restrooms near your gate. Try and stay away from alcohol; it will both dehydrate you and interfere with your sleep patterns.
Reset your watch on the plane. Once you are in the plane, act like you are in your destination time zone already. Set your watch to your new time zone and try and take at least a nap around the time when you might fall asleep back home.
Bring a neck pillow, sleep mask, and ear plugs or noise-canceling headphones. These items are vital in order to nap on the plane. Even if you don’t fall into a deep slumber, your body will thank you later for each little 20 minute nap you can sneak on the plane. These things may also come in handy to help fall asleep in a new place once you have arrived at your destination. If you are worried about missing a meal, speak with the flight crew. Some clever folks have even made signs to tell the flight crew if they would like to eat or keep sleeping.
Once you arrive, stay awake! If you absolutely must take a nap, don’t nap more than 30 minutes. If it’s still daylight outside, take a walk and soak up as much of that sun as possible. The exposure to sun will help your body reset its circadian rhythms. Try and stay up until at least 10pm in the local time zone. This discipline on your first day of arrival will get you over jet lag much faster!
Set your room up to sleep well. When you check into your hotel room, have a look around and try to anticipate anything that may disturb your sleep later. A pitch-black room is ideal when trying to reset your circadian rhythms. Some industrious travelers come prepared with electrical tape or black Post-it notes to place on digital clock faces, annoying “always-on” lights from electronics in the room, or even the tiny lights of the smoke detector. Some folks will even bring binder-clips for the window curtains to make sure no light seeps between them. The same effect can also sometimes be accomplished with the clips on the hangers in the hotel closet.
Other things to consider when traveling to different time zones and jet lag:
When flying westwards, e.g. from Europe to New York, or from Washington DC to San Francisco: Don’t make any late evening plans the first couple of nights. You might think you are up to it, but your body will tell you otherwise. If you are booking our walking tours, stick to the morning and daytime tours, and avoid the evening tours.
When flying eastwards, e.g. from California to New York, or from Boston to London: Don’t make any morning plans the first couple of days. Instead plan more things to do in the afternoon and evenings. If you are booking our walking tours, avoid the early 10 am tours, and go for the afternoon or evening tours.