I had a dream once.
Then jet lag hit.
Sometimes people ask me why I am always smiling. Well, the secret is that I literally get 8 to 9 hours of sleep every night. When I don’t achieve that much sleep (yes, I call sleeping that long an “achievement”), I’m…not so happy.
So clearly, jet lag is my worst nemesis. Trust me, after a long flight, all I want to do is take a nap and chug the nearest source of caffeine. But naps and caffeine are not a blessing, they are a curse.
You heard that right. Last week, I flew into Querétaro, Mexico, which took almost 24 hours because no one else flies from Reno to Querétaro. And man, was I jet lagged.
Do as I say, not as I do…
*insert other parental sayings here*
I blatantly decided to ignore my own advice when I landed in Mexico. I took a nap and chugged this delicious cappuccino. If bliss was a place, I was in Blissland. Does that make sense? No? Moving on.
That was all fine and dandy until bedtime, when I literally laid wide awake ALL NIGHT. Seriously, nothing peeves me more than when I desperately want to sleep and can’t. I sacrificed a good night’s rest for coffee and a nap, and wholly got what I deserved.
For 2 days after my flight, I was falling asleep mid-conversation, especially after lunch. I desperately needed coffee to survive business meetings. I was most tired when it was most important for me to be awake. Needless to say, I learned my lesson.
Should-a, could-a, would-a
So I’m currently writing this from London, England, a week after Mexico. This time, I did jet lag right. Here’s how you can do it right too.
No naps. No caffeine. No alcohol.
Most people are good about the naps-caffeine-alcohol rule, but they forget the most important ingredient: natural light. Natural sunlight helps your body readjust to your new time zone. Go for a walk, sit at a cafe outside (and drink water), or find any other excuse you can to stay awake outside. And drink lots of water!
My only word of caution is that if you do decide to wander around in an unfamiliar place to receive sunlight, watch your surroundings. Make sure there are people around, keep your valuables in front of your body (no back pocket), and follow your gut instinct. If you ever feel uncomfortable, just leave.
Side note rant: Seriously, NEVER put your phone or wallet in your back pocket while traveling. You will be easy shark bait. Oo Ha Ha.
Since you are rightfully exhausted, leave your valuables locked away at your hostel or hotel. A jet lagged traveler is a pickpocket’s dream. Even if it’s not time for check-in yet, most hospitality establishments will let you leave your bag behind the front desk or will have storage lockers. It never hurts to ask.
When you finally crash into bed, utterly broken from jet lag, you will sleep like a rock. I say rock, and not baby, because babies actually wake up multiple times in the night and don’t sleep well at all. Whoever came up with “I slept like a baby” was seriously misinformed.
The unsung heroes of jet lag
Why doesn’t anyone ever talk about the power of ear plugs and an eye mask? I use ear plugs whenever I sleep in hostels, because people tend to be flat out rude.
When you are sharing a space with 11 other people (many hostels are 12 beds per room), chances are, at least one person will come in during the middle of the night and make noise. I even had people in my room turn the light on when they come in late at night, even though others are sleeping.
If you don’t have an eye mask, you can create a makeshift one out of a headband. I use my Buff headband because it doubles as an accessory and an eye mask, so there’s less to pack. But almost any soft clothing that you have will work to pull over your eyes. Block the haters out!
Yeah, that photo of me was never intended to see the light of day, but I’m wearing my headband/eye mask at an airport. Point made. Please look away from the photo now.
The only thing (besides water), and I repeat, the only thing, that I will buy for jet lag are essential oils. One of my classmates from my MBA program wrote an amazing article here about traveling with essential oils. Lavender is very calming, smells great, and helps me sleep more deeply.
Your executive summary of fighting jet lag
Do: Drink lots of water. Enjoy the natural sunlight. Stay awake until it’s time for bed, then put your ear plugs in. Use essential oils if you need extra help. Watch your valuables.
Don’t: Drink caffeine or alcohol. No naps. Avoid bright screens before bed.
What did I miss? Leave a reply to let me know your jet lag secrets 🙂
Until next time- Saludos!