If you love to travel, you know all too well about the not-so-loveable side effect of jet-setting: the dreaded post-vacation jet lag. No matter how great the trip, feeling extra groggy or waking up in the middle of the night ready for the day to start are less-than-enjoyable remnants of an otherwise amazing experience.
You can stave off the yucky jet lag feeling, however, by deploying some natural remedies, both on your flight back and when you get home. Here are five must-try tricks.
1. Don’t Eat on the Plane
Here’s an insider jet lag tip that travel workers swear by: Don’t eat in the air. First off, not eating will help your body adjust to the new time zone, research shows, as changing your meal times could affect your circadian rhythms. Plus, since digestion slows at 30,000 feet, you can avoid the bloated, undesirable feeling that usually comes after you’ve deplaned (and consumed a lot of snacks on the way). Try to eat a protein-rich meal before you board the plane or, if you’re on a super-long flight, nibble on something small like a nutrient-dense bar to stave off hunger pangs. Then, get back on your normal eating routine when you touch down.
2. Stay Hydrated
Dehydration is a common side effect of air travel so keeping water handy before, during and after your flight can go a long way toward making you feel better when you get home. Try to sip as much water as you can, which will also help keep you from mindlessly grabbing snacks out of boredom. Try to avoid drinking coffee, caffeinated tea or alcohol while traveling, which will only dehydrate you and mess with your sleep. Even though a cocktail mid-flight can be fun, it won’t do anything to help beat your jet lag when you get home.
3. Expose Yourself to Bright Light
Resync your body to your home time zone by exposing yourself to bright light. While you may want to crawl into bed the moment you get back to your house, if it’s still daytime do your best to stay awake. Go for a brisk walk, ride your bike or take a yoga class in the park to keep your body outdoors and moving. This will help you reset your sleep-wake cycle and make the transition easier.
4. Take Melatonin
If you get home at night and want to get yourself back on your at-home sleep schedule, try melatonin to beat jet lag. In your body, melatonin levels naturally rise at night, creating that dreamy sleepy feeling. Since your melatonin release could get out of whack from traveling, taking a supplement can help you get needed shut-eye when the time comes. Just know that it could take one or two hours for the melatonin to kick in, so you want to plan accordingly.
5. Inhale Lavender
As you probably already know, lavender essential oil is famous for being a calming scent, helping relax the body and even encouraging sleep. Research shows that, along with other good sleep habits, inhaling lavender can lead to improved sleep quality. After traveling, you can soothe yourself with some lavender, adding it to your normal bedtime routine. Rolling on some essential oil, adding a few drops to a bath or diffusing the oil in your bedroom can help you combat jet lag and get some much-needed sleep.
Within a day or so, your body should feel back to normal, helping you get back into your usual routine. Try these tips every time you travel and soon you’ll be a pro at keeping jet lag from ruining the tail end of your trip.
Natasha Burton has written for Women’s Health, Livestrong, MSN.com, Cosmopolitan.com and WomansDay.com, among other print and online publications. She’s also the author of five books, including 101 Quizzes for Couples and The Little Black Book of Big Red Flags.