Jet lag is something that plagues most people at some point and whether you travel for business, work, or traveling for fun the very last thing you want is to have to deal with jet lag, right?
Well…in this guide, you are going to learn how you can quickly and easily beat jet lag even if you’ve suffered from severe jet lag in the past. That way you can knock out all of the jetlag symptoms like fatigue and focus on the prevention no matter how many time zones you’ll be crossing.
After traveling around the world many times over I’ve learned a series of protocols, processes and a few tools that will dramatically help you in your fight against jetlag.
Getting Started with Beating Jet Lag
Before we start talking about how to stop jet lag I think we need to start at the beginning.
What exactly causes jet lag when you travel (also known as desynchronosis or circadian dysrhythmia)?
To understand what causes jet lag and the symptoms you feel we need to understand that our bodies are aligned on a 24-hour cycle (circadian rhythm) this is often referred to as your body clock.
Basically, your body uses this clock to perform certain biological functions for you. This might be something like releasing hormones that help promote sleep or even increasing the temperature of your body to help you wake up at the start of your day.
Now that we understand that…jet lag is caused when your body’s natural clock (body clock), or circadian rhythm, is disrupted by traveling to different time zones.
For example, if you travel from Los Angeles to Hong Kong you might leave LAX at 12:10 PM arriving over 15 hours later at 6:20 PM the very next day local time.
Yet your body would think it’s about 3 AM your local time, which if you don’t prepare properly could give you some serious jet lag.
How to Beat Jet Lag Part #1 – Your Pre-Flight Gameplan
When it comes to conquering jet lag I think one of the most important things you can do is prepare properly and that starts before you ever get to the airport.
Here’s my pre-flight gameplan in a 4-part checklist for you.
Pre-Flight Gameplan Checklist
1. I focus on booking flights that are going to arrive at a time that works with my schedule and normal routine. For example, I always try to book flights that leave later in the day going to Asia where I arrive in the morning, which allows me to easily sleep on the flight without worrying about being too awake when I arrive.Ideally direct flights or one-stop through LA or SF will get me there early in the morning.
2. Fasting. I normally fast for 16 hours a day, eating my first meal about 1 or 2 pm each day and eat during an 8-hour window because I focus on intermittent fasting. You don’t need to do that here, but you I do recommend that you fast during the flight.
Here’s how this normally works for me sticking with the flight from LA to Hong Kong.
If I have say a 10 pm flight from LA (LAX) I’ll eat my last meal either before the flight leaves at the airport or at home making sure to avoid sugar and alcohol as much as possible. I’m not trying to eat ‘extra’ food here rather just eating as normal.
I will then fast the whole flight and won’t eat my next meal until I normally would eat my first meal. So, if I eat dinner in the US my next normal meal would be late lunch, 1 pm or after. Sometimes this might cause an extra bit of fasting but that’s ok. Fasting is good for you from time to time and if you want to learn more about it you can read this book.
**Please don’t take this or anything else here as medical advice you should consult your doctor first
Now I make sure I don’t eat til that time because this helps my body (body clock) recognize I’m still in sync so to speak.
If you need help curbing your appetite you can drink sparkling water or something like black coffee.
3. Exercise. When you are in good shape your body naturally has a better time with recovery especially if you do a lot active recovery. Anytime I have a long flight even if it’s just 4 hours or so I like to get in a good workout the day of the long flight.
I prefer shorter but more intense workouts like my friend Chris Winters talks about in Fatspiracy but any physical activity is usually better than none. And if you can do the workout outside or spend some time outside in the fresh air I find that’s even better.
4. Hydrate. Most people are not drinking enough water. When you are exercising and traveling on longer flights you really want to make sure you are drinking a lot of water. To stay hydrated I avoid things like fruit juices with added sugar, soda, alcohol, and coffee.
From my experience when you travel you should be drinking a lot more water than normal, particularly on long international flights so be sure to hydrate well before the flight and also bring some bottles of water on the flight.
Let’s Recap Step #1 to Beating Jet Lag
How to Beat Jet Lag Part 2 – Your Flight Gameplan
As the old saying by Ben Franklin goes if you don’t have a plan you plan to fail. And from my experience, it’s 100% true here.
So here’s my gameplan for the flight so you can beat jet lag.
1. Stay hydrated – as an example, if we are using the flight from LA to Asia I’ll aim to drink a minimum of 2.5 – 3 liters of water on that direct flight. More if there is a layover. And for a lot of people, this is more water than they ever drink in a day, which is ok because most people are chronically dehydrated.
2. Sleep – this will depend on how long your flight is and what time of day you are traveling. I’ve trained myself to sleep well on a plane, but here are some things I use to help that should work if you typically don’t sleep well on a plane.
a. Get a sleep mask – you can grab one for cheap on Amazon.com here
b. Noise canceling earbuds with the white noise. (this alone is shown to help because of the reverberation in the plane)
[+] I use the Bose Quiet Comfort Noise Cancelling Headphones available on Amazon here.
[+] Here’s a link to the Bose Wireless headphones as well.
[+] I personally love the Bose products, however, if you are looking for a less expensive option you can check these out on Amazon as well.
c. Delta Sleeper (DeltaSleeper.com) – it’s been game changer for me. It’s a small 1/2 oz wearable technology device, that will help you fall asleep more easily, stay asleep, and provides a better quality of sleep, which is great for the airplane.
You can learn more about it on their official site here.
d. Melatonin. Some people take Melatonin as well. I don’t personally but could be a good option for some and it’s available on Amazon here.
e. If you have problems falling asleep and don’t have something like the delta sleeper you can use breathing exercises like box breathing to calm your mind and body down, which helps you sleep. Or you can simply use the Deep Calm breathing sequence of the Oak Meditation app.
3. After I wake up on the plane I walk around and move my body. Some light stretching, breathing and drink lots and lots of water.
4. If I’m not going to be sleeping on the plane because the flight is shorter or I’m arriving in the evening I will always create a gameplan of things to do. This usually includes reading, journaling, listening to some new music that I added to my Spotify, watching movies, and often time doing some focused work.
The key is that if I need to stay up because of when I’ll arrive on the ground I make sure to have a whole host of things of things to keep me busy.
Let’s Recap Step #2 to Beating Jet Lag
How to Beat Jet Lag Part 3 – Your Post-Flight Protocol
From my experience, this is usually the critical part. After I land I do everything in my power to hit the ground running so to speak and this is where I see most people ‘give in’ to jet lag.
One of the first things I do after I land is buy a few bottles of water. I can’t emphasize enough how important it is to stay very hydrated.
Here’s my post-flight protocol.
1. Check-in to my hotel or Airbnb and unpack.
2. Shower and freshen up. I like to add about 30-60 seconds of very cold water at the end of the shower. This helps to wake up the cells in your body and can have some hormonal benefits as well. You can alternate between hot and cold if you needed to just end on cold.
3. Hit the gym. I personally hit the gym and get my body moving. At the very least 20-30 minutes of cardio to get my blood pumping. If it’s sunny outside I’ll actually go for a walk outside and get as much sunshine as possible. Part of the secret to rebooting your body clock so to speak is showing it that the sun is out and it’s time to be awake.
For some, you could even lay out by the pool and get some sun if that’s possible within your schedule.
4. Post workout – this is an ideal scenario and not always possible, but I like to do this when I’m at home so again I try to keep my schedule as normal as possible. I’ll do a cycle or two of the steam room or sauna (10 minutes), Cold plunge or cold shower (1-2 minutes), steam room/sauna (10 minutes), cold plunge or cold shower (1-3 minutes).
For me, it’s a great way to end my workout and leaves me feeling quite energized. Now if I spend this extra time in the steam room or sauna I really make sure I drink lots of water to keep myself hydrated.
5. Get on with my day and make sure to have my first meal at my normal time of 1 pm or after. This meal I keep to high-fat foods such as avocado, things cooked in olive oil, fish, etc and lots of veggies. I purposely avoid things high in grains to keep me from getting sleepy.
Depending on where I am I’ll do my best to also get some fresh green juice, wheat grass, or something similar.
6. At the end of the day, I like to follow my evening ritual, which is designed to help me fall asleep. Again this is something I normally do and includes some simple things like wearing blue light blocking glasses at night, using a foam roller or lacrosse ball to do some trigger point on my back, hips, and legs (5-15 minutes), doing the deep breathing sequence in the meditation app Oak (about a 60 seconds), drink some tea (non-caffeinated) and relax by doing some reading or journaling.
I try to avoid things that will keep me up like starting a new movie, bingeing on some Netflix series or anything like that and I always have the flux app on any device of mine.
A few tips on sleep – first, I could write a whole guide on this but here are 5 of my favorite. hacks.
5 Sleep Hacks Designed to Help You Get More Restful Sleep
- Block out any light. Close the shades, unplug the TV, etc. Ideally, the room will be totally dark. I even travel with an eye mask in case I can’t fully block out the light. This starts earlier in the night by using blue light blocking glasses like I mentioned.
- Keep the room cold. It’s been shown that you can sleep much more soundly if your bedroom is cold.
- No technology 60-90 minutes before you sleep.
- Put your devices in airplane mode.
- Use something like Magnesium oil or Magnesium spray, I like the Ease Magnesium Spray.
Let’s Recap Step #3 to Beating Jet Lag
That about sums it up.
After years of living on the road traveling north and south, east and west and a work schedule that has taken me all over the world, I’m happy to say that following this protocol helps me to never have jet lag anymore.
A few quick reminders.
[+] This works for you whether you are heading one direction or another. I know certain people have bigger issues with going east than they do west and if that’s you this will still help.
[+] Make sure you do what you can to keep parts of your routine the same. Give your body some normalcy when possible.
[+] Hydration is key. Most folks are dehydrated and getting enough water especially on long travel is very important.
If you have any questions or need any additional help just comment below.