Jet lag, a temporary sleep disorder, is an unpleasant side effect of modern travel. Today, we can end up on the other side of our planet within hours – something our ancestors would probably dismiss as magic. Unfortunately, this convenience has a price that our bodies end up paying. That price is jet lag. I am sure we have all experienced this dreaded malady at one time or another. Its symptoms can range from mild to severe and last anywhere from a couple days to even weeks. And often, the older you get, the worse the effects of it are and the longer they last. So what can you do? Are there any natural jet lag remedies out there?
As they say, an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. We recently wrote this post about how to prevent jet lag altogether. It’s a method utilizing strategic fasting that I implemented on my last few transatlantic flights and each time I had zero jet lag. The method we describe in that article has worked 100% for me and I swear by it. But, it is not for everyone for various reasons. To be able to use it, you need to be completely healthy. It is not for people with certain medical conditions.
So if you are unable to use the fasting method to prevent jet lag, don’t worry. You have other options to deal with jet lag once you land in your destination. One thing I will tell you is this. Do not surrender to jet lag. The moment you do, you are prolonging and worsening its effects. I know, I’ve made that mistake before. The result was two weeks of a zombie-like state.
Below, we share with you strategies we have used and that have worked for us. We have experimented with these, sometimes discovering some of them by accident. They all have helped us to get out of jet lag faster. Best of all, they are all natural and you can combine several of these strategies to build your own method that will work for you.
Natural Jet Lag Remedies:
1. Follow the local schedule
One of the natural jet lag remedies we like to use if following the local schedule for everything we do as soon as we land. Whatever time you land in your destination, immediately attempt to follow their schedule instead of the one you just left. Eat at local meal times. Go to bed at something close to your regular bed time. I am usually so tired on my arrival day that I end up going to bed earlier than my usual bedtime. But I try not to go to bed before 9 PM.
You must have heard that air travel is extremely dehydrating. All that recycled air blowing at you for all those hours. Drink water or juices. Eat plenty of fruit and veggies. Avoid caffeine, alcohol, too much salt or sugar.
3. Go outside!
Another one of our favourite natural jet lag remedies is fresh air. Don’t stay indoors and mope around feeling sorry for yourself and taking naps. Get outside! You need to see the sunlight for your body to readjust. Yes, I get it, you’re tired. Do something easy then. Go for a walk, take your jet lagged kid to a park, just be out and about. I have even heard some people swear by walking barefoot on grass. Apparently that can do the trick to reset their circadian rhythm. Whatever works, just be outside.
4. Eat a light dinner
Another one of our natural jet lag remedies has to do with dinnertime. Don’t overdo it. A jet lagged body is one thing, but an overfed jet lagged body – forget it! Instant drowsiness! Instead, eat a light dinner.
5. Go for a walk after dinner
Go for a leisurely walk after dinner. You’ll invigorate your body enough not to fall asleep too early. I have found that the digestive process is very hard on a jet lagged body.
6. Exercise (but not in the evening)
Having a hard time getting up in the morning because you were up several times in the night? Get up, go for a vigorous run. Or another type of cardiovascular activity. Make sure it’s hard and you sweat a lot. Hard exercise will invigorate you and give you more energy than a cup of java. It will let you sleep deeply at night. Best times to exercise when jet lagged are in the morning through mid-afternoon. Don’t exercise in the evening as it will give you a boost of energy that will interfere with your ability to fall asleep at night.
7. Hot-Cold-Relax ritual (or Thermal Cycle)
Whenever there’s a problem out there, I am sure Scandinavian people have solved it, sometimes inadvertently. Have you heard of the Nordic hot-cold-relax ritual? I discovered this ritual a few years ago when I was visiting Canada after having been away for a couple years. My friends suggested we all go to this amazing new spa in town that specialized in such a thermal cycle. I was excited to try it because I just love a good spa.
I had never done the ritual and it was explained to me that this was a two-millenia old Nordic tradition. You begin with either a hot sauna or a hot pool. Let’s say, 10-15 minutes or however long you can handle the heat. Then you follow that up with a dip in a cold pool or my favourite, bucket of cold water on your head (I dare you to do it without screaming). You then relax for as long as you need. You repeat this cycle three times. I have to tell you, I was jet lagged as never before when I showed up at the spa. But that night, after the spa, I slept like a log through the entire night.
OK, OK, I hear you. There might not be a Nordic-style spa where you are, so then what do you do? Well, do you have a bathtub or a shower? Great! Run a hot bath. Soak in it, then douse yourself with cold water (bucket on your head) or a quick cold shower. Then wrap yourself in a bathrobe and relax for 15-20 minutes. Then go back at it two more times. You can definitely do this in the evening. This ritual will make you relaxed and sleepy. If I had to vote, this would be my favourite of all the natural jet lag remedies we mention here.
8. Go for a Massage
If you can, get a massage, preferably in the evening. It has similar effects to the hot-cold-relax cycle I described above. And no one is pouring buckets of cold water on your head. I bet, if you had to vote, you’d pick this one as your favourite of all these natural jet lag remedies.
9. Avoid naps
While you will not find a greater nap enthusiast out there than me, I have learned that napping while jet lagged is a big no no. No one can wake me up from a jet lagged nap. It turns into deep sleep when it shouldn’t and all my other efforts to circumvent jet lag have been wasted.
10. Use white noise
And the final of our natural jet lag remedies is using white noise to fall asleep. My son and I love to listen to sounds of rain at bedtime when we’re jet lagged. It really helps us fall asleep when we’re having a hard time. You can find plenty of “rain sound” tracks on YouTube.
In short, these strategies have helped us get out of jet lag faster. Some of these work for children as well. Like, for example: being outside, being active and taking a bath before bed (instead of the thermal cycle for adults). Whatever you do, don’t succumb to the temptation of daytime sleeping or staying indoors. Let sunlight and fresh air do their magic.
How do you deal with jet lag? Do you have any strategies that work well for you? We’d love to hear what they are. Please let us know in comments below. And if you haven’t yet, please subscribe to our blog, so that you can receive new blog posts in your email. And, if you know someone who’d benefit from these strategies, please share this post with them.
P.S. We are not medical professionals, just seasoned travelers. So before you try some of our strategies (like the hot-cold-relax cycle), you might have to ask your doctor if it’s OK for you.
For our other “How To” posts, please see:
- Jet Lag – How to Beat It Once And For All
- How to Keep Warm in a Tent When Camping in Cold Weather
- How to Vacation on Canary Islands on a Budget
- How to do French Alps with Kids on a Budget
- Side Trip (or How to Hack Travel Costs)