How to Avoid Jetlag
Updated: Mar 23
For many of us, traveling can be a very disruptive process. We pack our bags, jump out of town, finalize emails and schedule calls until the flight attendant asks us (in person) to switch off the phone. We inevitably arrive completely frazzled. If not done properly, those first three days to two weeks can leave us feeling depleted.
On top of that, with a weakened immune system and the exposure to a multitude of new bacteria, we often get sick and need a vacation to recover from our vacation. Worse, if you are anything like me, you arrive to a far flung destination and the effort it took means you arrive promptly to fall asleep at the very thing you came to experience. Oops!
Let's get you on track to allow you to literally hit the ground running feeling fresh and minimally tired the first night of long-haul flying, while still being able to wake up with the sun feeling hungry at normal hours. You may just find these tips as daily habits!
Before you jet...
Choose a healthful plane schedule. For me, I try to only fly those long 15 hours flights if it is a direct flight and I have no other onward travel (ie. Los Angeles to Sydney). I try and keep my flights 10 hours or less if there is a connection as I need to get off the plane, sleep, exercise, etc. before I can continue moving. I don’t sleep on planes, maybe 30 minutes here and there when im totally and completely out of it, so for me, it’s best to start a long haul flight shortly after I wake up or first thing in the morning. I avoid red eye flights unless I am going straight to a home place like visiting my parents where I’ll be able to rest and don’t have too much itinerary coming up. Most people can sleep on planes. If you are like me and cannot sleep upright then either choose your seat wisely (or ask at check-in for a seat next to an empty seat) to lay down or prop the legs in economy or plan a sleep in a strategic way like an intentional stopover and in transit hotel or sleeping pod. My go to site: www.sleepinginairports.com.
Stay healthy. Prepare yourself days before by not drinking alcohol, too much caffeine or staying up too late. If you start a long-haul flight exhausted and acidic, your immune system is already susceptible to picking up germs and illnesses of those on your plane or from transit. Be well rested and nourished with lots of fresh and vibrant foods, green juices, and nourishing and grounding soups. Stock up on as much probiotics as you can in the form of fermented pickles or kraut, drinks, and supplements. Take lots of adaptogens before, during and after travel. I purposefully do not take any kind of sleep pills for the flights nor do I take coffee unless it is to help adjust my sleep by staying awake a little longer or if arriving in the morning of a new place. In extreme situations where I have to work and don’t have the luxury of taking my time, I might take melatonin the first few nights I arrive to ensure I sleep eight hours in those nights upon arrival. Otherwise, it really is best not to screw up your circadian rhythm more than you already are by changing time zones, cabin pressure, dryness, climate change, etc. as this leads to hormone imbalances, mental fog, and for many touring artists, depression and burnout.
Stay clean. Wash your hands often, and do not touch any surfaces of the bathroom directly. If you touch the handles, screens, buttons, etc. on the plane, be sure to wash your hands or use hand sanitizer before using your hands to eat or especially before licking your fingers or touching your mucus membranes. I’m not super strict like this once I’ve landed in a new place but am quite vigilant on airplanes.
Stay regular. Be sure to have steady bowel movements and consider drinking ground flax, psyllium husk, bentonite clay, charcoal, etc. to keep things flowing. Eat plenty of fiber, eat smaller portion sizes, and have sustainable food snacks like nuts, nut butters, fruits, etc. I don’t have any go-to snacks to link here as I am not in any one place at any given time but generally good options are: small jar or sachets of preferred nut butter (peanut butter everyday for me, please!), pre-washed and wrapped apples, oranges, protein bars, protein and green powder, teas of choice, nuts, date and nut bars, and crunchy dry snacks - Note: I try and limit my consumption of salty packaged snacks while on planes as their salt tends to make me puffy and feet super swollen. Eat as much fresh food as you like and get your systems moving!
Pack smart. Pack the necessities for your flight in your carry on including lotion, facial misting spray, lip balm and around the eyes balm, toothbrush, toothpaste, and deodorant wipes to feel fresh. I use a Burt’s Bees balm for almost everything - around the eyes, the lips, the hands etc. which is in a base of shea butter. I tend to find shea butter concoctions to be the best thing for my adjusting and dry skin. I also like to have a water spritzer for the face while traveling. Eva Air has a nice one provided on my flights from the US to Asia but I also now fly with a small 100ML one.
Lounges. Recently I became a Chase Sapphire Reserve cardholder so I could benefit from the Priority Pass membership. What a game changer! Now almost all airports I fly in, I head through security and hit up the lounge for a meal, snacks, a shower, a place to charge my devices, fill up my water bottle, use wifi, or just simply to relax. If you are a frequent traveler, I HIGHLY recommend looking in to this.
While in flight...
Drink up. Drink tons of water, and add Lemon, Wild Orange or Red Mandarin essential oil to water if you need help drinking more. Water, including hot water, is always available on the plane so ask for it. Make yourself some tea, use your supplement or protein powders, and continue to drink as much as you can. On flights, I aim for 1L each 3 hours. Use small jar with lid for powdered elixirs and teas. Makeshift shaker jar!
Compression socks. Nothing beats being able to keep legs lifted but for those flights that are pushing 15 hours where you are not so lucky to put your feet up, it might be nice to try compression socks to avoid having swollen feet that can’t fit back into their shoes. Once I couldn't get my shoes back on and had to leave the airport in my socks...
Move often. Getting up and moving around often is best to keep circulation flowing. I like to dry brush often and make sure to use my small dry brush where possible to stimulate the lymphatic system and keep things flowing. Depending on my work schedule, I tend to treat the flight like my personal office. I put on audiobooks and walk around, talk with people in the back, do yoga the back and against the exit doors, etc.
Yoga for the Flight...
Standing forward fold
Hands behind head, roll to fold, half lift, and fold back, roll to rise and repeat
Opposite wrist reach to right and left to open sides of body
Lizard on the exit doors
Triangle and Pyramid pose in the spaces by the toilets on long haul flights
Standing figure four for opening the hips
Other yoga and mindfulness practices such as Pranayama, Meditation, and Mantra Chanting
When you Land...
Once you arrive, try and get on the same schedule in your new environment in terms of sleeping and eating. This is very important. DO NOT check the clock and see what time it would be if you were still in whatever location you just came from. The first night upon arrival, it is best to go to bed early but not too early, around 8:30 pm - 10pm and try to get 10 hours of sleep. Waking around sunrise is no problem with these tips and tricks! It is common to wake in the middle of the night for no reason, just try and go back to sleep. I enjoy a few drops of lavender essential oil on the pillow for peaceful rest and lemon essential oil in my water upon rising unless I can find fresh lemons. The first few days in a new location may take some adjustment energetically, and you will naturally be sleepy earlier than normal as your system is in a bit of a state of shock. Plan to go to bed early those first few days and prioritize your sleep. It’s better to do that than to take mid-day naps. Eat smaller portion sizes as food coma can really throw you off as well. Be kind to yourself, allow yourself some time and don't feel bad if you spend the whole next day in the hotel. Depending on your budget, this is the perfect time too for a steam/sauna, a yoga practice with plenty of twists, or a massage. Remember your wellbeing is of the utmost important if you want to live your best life ;)