If anyone flies through the air with the greatest of ease, it’s a commercial airline pilot. Pilots know that to beat jet lag, you must give your body the information it needs before arriving at your destination.
Sleep prep. Humans are hard-wired to a 24-hour clock through our circadian rhythm, the natural process that regulates our sleep-wake cycle according to darkness and daylight. Don’t pull an all-nighter before a long flight in an attempt to outsmart the time zone change because it won’t work. Instead, get a good night’s sleep and with your doctor’s consent, pack Melatonin or Magnesium as a natural sleep aid and Vitamin B complex as an energy booster.
Survival kit. Carry-on must-haves for long flights include regular medications, sleep mask, earplugs or earbuds, neck pillow, light jacket, healthy snacks, face wipes, device chargers, a book or other form of entertainment, lotion and a toothbrush.
Upgrade. Whenever possible, upgrade your seat accommodations to ensure relative quiet and comfort for sleeping on your flight.
East meets west. Flying east across time zones is harder than flying west because traveling east shortens the day while traveling west lengthens it. As soon as you get on the plane, and particularly if you’re flying eastbound, adjust your clock to your destination time then sleep accordingly. As for eating? Research from Harvard Medical School suggests that not eating at all could help your body adjust to a new time zone more quickly, but we recommend light meals according to your destination (and not the flight attendants feeding schedule).
Bottoms up. While some travelers swear by a cocktail as their go-to sleep-aid, pilots know that drinking water is the best choice before, during and after the flight. Planes are notoriously dehydrating, which amplifies the effects of jet lag once you’re on the ground. The Aerospace Medical Association suggests about eight ounces of water for every hour you’re in the air. Bonus: you get out of your seat more, which gives you room to stretch.
Power nap. When all else fails, do what pilots do. If you’re suffering from jet lag after your flight, drink a caffeinated beverage then go straight to bed. Since the effects of caffeine don’t kick in for 45 minutes, you can take a 30-minute nap and wake up with the benefits of both the nap and the caffeine.