No matter where travelers go around the world, they all face a common enemy. This enemy does not have a specific type and targets all travelers regardless of their nationality. When international travelers don’t plan ahead to face this common foe, their adventures can become derailed in a hurry.
That common foe is known as "jet lag." When travelers do not prepare for it, their internal schedules can get mixed up in a hurry, causing extreme fatigue during the days and insomnia at night.
How can travelers properly prepare for the sudden time change at their destination, in order to make sure they stay awake and alert?
With a little knowledge and the help of some modern marvels, fighting jet lag can be an easy and pain-free process. Before you travel to your next destination, follow these tips for a snooze-free visit!
Plan for light exposure ahead of your destination
One of the biggest cues your body uses to regulate sleep is natural light. During daylight hours, your body will absorb more light, making it want to stay awake. At night, because there is less light, your body will naturally shut down and want to seek more rest.
By planning your light exposure on the first day of your vacation, you can make sure your body adjusts well to your new destination. For travelers heading east on overnight flights, catch as much sleep as possible during the flight, followed by avoiding bright light throughout the first day.
For travelers heading west, limit the amount of sleep you get on the flight, and expose yourself to more light upon arrival.
Rest ahead of time and don't overuse caffeine
The excitement of travel can cause many adventurers restless nights ahead of their adventures. However, not being well rested ahead of a trip can result in big problems for travelers, especially if they try to catch up across borders and multiple time zones.
Before your next international trip, be sure to have enough rest to function. Many doctors recommend adults sleep between six and eight hours per night, while children and adolescents may require more sleep. In addition, caffeine use to compensate for lost sleep can cause even more long-term problems, from heart palpitations to extreme fatigue. Simply put: there is no substitute for a good night's rest.
Eat like a local (ahead of your visit)
Depending on where you are going when you travel, skipping the last major meal before your flight can help you adjust easier. Once again, it's all about which direction your flight is heading, and what to expect when you get there.
Some experts recommend fasting for as many as 16 hours before you arrive at your final destination, so that travelers will be ready to eat as soon as they arrive. Others recommend eating on the same schedule as the locals as soon as you arrive, to maintain good dietary habits. To maximize effects, be sure to do what is comfortable, while maintaining a schedule similar to the locals. Just make sure your waiter is being honest with the bill, and not trying to take advantage of a sleep-deprived traveler.
Water may be able to help
Not drinking water is one mistake often made by travelers at a new destination.
While unfiltered tap water can lead to getting sick while traveling, it's still very important to maintain proper hydration while traveling with bottled water.
While aboard the flight and upon landing, be sure to keep hydrated with plenty of water. Experts recommend skipping the extra drink in business class, and opt for water throughout the flight. As a result, travelers will be able to stay bright and refreshed from takeoff to landing.
Utilize an app to keep your clock running
Finally, modern technology can be a key to staying bright while traveling around the world. Many apps help travelers to adjust to their time zone through suggesting a regimen prior to their travels.
One of my favorite apps comes from the IATA. The SkyZen app allows travelers to plug-in their travel plans (down to the class of travel the flier will be on), and will recommend a sleep and refreshment schedule for all phases of travel.
If followed, the app programmers claim their system can help travelers reduce their problems with jetlag.
Of all the problems travelers will contend with, jet lag is one of the most universal. However, through proper planning and a little technology, travelers can make sure jet lag is one less worry to contend with as they see the world.