When it comes to avoiding jet lag—that sluggish feeling you get whenever you fly across two or more time zones—you've heard all the advice before: mimic the schedule at your destination before you leave home, avoid caffeine, stay hydrated while in flight, or try remedies like melatonin and natural light therapy. But when preparing for a trip, it's easy to forget these things. So to make sure you can recover on your next long-haul excursion, here's our guide to curing jet lag.
Whatever You Do, Don't Take a Nap
As hard as it can be to power through the day after a long flight, do not take a nap, as this will only exacerbate the problem. Instead, splash some cold water on your face, get a cool drink (or a cup of coffee, if you respond well to caffeine), and leave your hotel room. If you absolutely can't keep your eyes open, take a short nap (no longer than 90 minutes), and be sure to set an alarm and get out of bed as soon as it rings.
Spend Time Outdoors
Natural light can do wonders when it comes to resetting your body's clock. Head outside and do some light sightseeing (hop-on, hop-off bus tours are great first-day excursions), explore the neighborhood, take a swim, or sit by the beach or pool. It doesn't really matter what you do, as long as you spend some time outside.
Air travel can really dehydrate you; after spending several hours on a plane, you'll want to up your water intake. Carry a bottle of water with you and make sure to drink as much as you can throughout the day. Avoid alcohol on the first day of your trip, as liquor can inhibit your body's ability to adjust to a new time zone.
Eat a Sensible Dinner
Make reservations for a nice dinner out or, if you're really wiped, order room service, but make sure to do so at dinnertime. Some people will tell you to avoid heavy or greasy foods, but the National Sleep Foundation disagrees; the type of food you eat won't have any bearing on your jet lag.
Go For a Walk
After dinner, take a stroll around your hotel or the local neighborhood. Nighttime sightseeing is a unique way to see a city and a little bit of exercise will help you get ready for bed at the right time.
Take a Hot Shower or Bath
When it's almost bedtime, take a hot shower or bath. The steamy water will lower your body temperature and (hopefully) make you drowsy.
Make Sure You Get A Good Night's Rest
Set the thermostat to a comfortable temperature (if you can control it) and close the drapes to shut out extraneous light. If you're sensitive to noise, use some earplugs. Snuggle into bed and allow your mind and body to relax.
When All Else Fails
If you suffer from jet lag chronically, talk with your doctor. He or she may prescribe a light medicinal sleep aid that you can take at bedtime on the day of arrival. Getting a full night's sleep on day one is key.
Andrea M. Rotondo is a freelance writer based in New York City. She covers cruise and luxury travel trends for Fodors.com, Condé Nast Traveler, Cruise Critic, and other websites and magazines. She also teaches travelers how to leverage their frequent flyer miles at FrequentFlyerToolkits.com.