I love traveling internationally, but when I’m on that plane, unable to sleep, and scrunched up in an uncomfortable position, I swear that either A) I will never travel internationally again or B) I will spring for the ungodly expensive first-class ticket next time. My joy continues that night and subsequent nights when I jump up, wide awake, at 2 am. Ah, the wonder of international travel.
Jet lag is a small price to pay for exploring another country, but as I get older I’m having to find my own system to combat it. My strategies are specific to me, and might not work for you, but I’ll share them in case they do help.
1. Take Melatonin
People are on the fence on whether melatonin helps with jet lag. For me, though it might be a placebo, it seems to regulate my sleep patterns faster. I take my first one on the plane, and take one a night for at least three nights or until I’m sleeping through the night.
2. Arrive in the Afternoon
When I arrive in the morning, I’ve got a full day to try to keep my eyes open. I can’t sleep on planes, so I set foot on foreign soil not having slept for at least 20 hours, so that’s a challenge. If possible, I like to arrive in the afternoon. Just a few hours of sightseeing and a big meal, and I can crash happily.
3. Take ONLY a 2-Hour Nap
It’s tempting to sleep away the day as soon as you arrive, but trust me: you will be up all night if you do. I set the alarm on my phone for 2 hours and then sleep like the dead. I might be a bit groggy when I get up, but hitting the streets helps me clear the cobwebs.
4. Eat a Big Meal. No Alcohol
I probably haven’t eaten really well during my transatlantic flight, so my first night, I strive to fill my belly (er, yea, just that night. I don’t eat everything in sight every other day of a trip. Really!). And as tempting as it is to have a glass of wine or beer that first night, I abstain. I find it messes with my sleep, which is wonky enough as it is.
5. Embrace the 2 am Wakeup Call
When you wake up in the middle of the night (and you will), don’t fight it. Turn the light on and read a book. Eat something. Then go back to sleep. Getting angry that you’re awake when you don’t want to be won’t make it better. Go with the flow, baby.