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Jet Lag Prevention

By Oran Aviv

Summer is here, and with it comes the excitement of air travel for many of us. With the experience of long-haul flights across numerous time zones, and often flying alone with three young kids in tow, I've developed strategies to prevent jet lag. Today, I am happy to share my updated tips for 2023, which have helped not only me, but also my entire family say goodbye to jet lag in both directions of travel.

✈️ Tip #1 - Stay Hydrated

In my experience, maintaining proper hydration is perhaps the most important aspect when it comes to preventing jet lag. The act of flying naturally dehydrates your body, which can contribute to feelings of tiredness and exacerbate the symptoms of jet lag.

When you're on a flight, the air you breathe is dry due to the compressed cabin environment. Additionally, to ensure that your in-flight meals are eatable, substantial amounts of salt are added. As you ascend to higher elevations, your taste buds may not function as effectively, and once you have the same meal on the ground, you'll realize just how salty it truly is! Counteracting the dryness and excessive salt intake requires ample consumption of water.

Unfortunately, the restrictions on fluids during flights have deterred many from purchasing bottled water at the airport. However, drinking water throughout the flight can make a world of difference in how you feel both during and after the journey.

To tackle this challenge, I recommend carrying an empty bottle with you and filling it up at the water fountains in the airport. On the plane, politely request the flight attendant to refill your bottle with water and make it a habit to sip continuously. Refill the bottle every time you finish it, ensuring a steady intake of hydration.

Another strategy to prevent dehydration is to gradually sip water in the days leading up to your flight. As a runner, I've learned that hydrating well three days before a race or long run can greatly impact how I feel during the run. During the days leading up to my flight, I fill a large bottle with water and sip it slowly throughout the day. Consuming large quantities of water at once tends to pass through your system quickly without effectively hydrating your cells.

By prioritizing hydration, you may find yourself visiting the lavatory more frequently during the flight. This is why I always request an aisle seat when flying—it allows me to get up easily. Frequent movement, as you'll discover in Tip #2, is another tip for jet lag prevention.

✈️ Tip # 2 - Move

Staying seated for extended periods during a flight not only affects your comfort but can also have negative health implications, particularly for individuals with circulation challenges. To combat the onset of jet lag, it is important to move and stretch during your flight.

Take advantage of every opportunity to get up and move around the plane. Engage in conversations with the cabin crew at the back, make trips to the lavatory, or simply take leisurely walks up and down the aisle.

In many of the newer planes, you'll find room near the back where you can perform stretching exercises, as well as discover the snacks that you may have not known are available to passengers! These are some of the ways I stretch on the plane:

✔️ Raise my arms up over my head

✔️ Twist my torso gently

✔️ Bend over to stretch the back of my legs and lower calves.

✔️ Rise up on my toes a few times.

I try to move and do these stretches for at least 15 minutes every few hours on long flights.

Even while remaining seated, I try to improve circulation in my legs. I take off my shoes and put on flight shoes or socks as soon as the flight begins to allow my feet more movement. While sitting, I rotate my feet at the ankle in both directions as well as point and flex my toes to engage the calf muscles and encourage blood flow.

Another technique I use to support circulation is reflexology. Using my thumbs and fingers, I apply pressure all over the feet, paying particular attention to the ball of the foot, which tends to swell after prolonged sitting.

If you are lucky and find one of these types of footrests on your flight,

You can give yourself a great foot massage!

On my flight back from India, I think I was the only person on the plane who realized that this was a foot massager! During short stopovers, make the most of your time by walking around the airport instead of taking a seat. I've personally walked several kilometers exploring various airports, stumbling upon intriguing places including art galleries and history exhibits. If you find yourself at your departure gate with time to spare, take the opportunity to stretch your legs and wander around.

As humans, our bodies were not designed to remain seated for long periods of time. By adding movement into your travel routine, you can not only reduce the effects of jet lag but also enjoy the health benefits of improved blood circulation.

✈️ Tip # 3 - Prevent Constipation

Constipation is a common issue associated with jet lag, but there are steps you can take to reduce its occurrence. By staying hydrated and moving during your flight, you can improve your chances of avoiding constipation.

Hand reflexology can also be a useful technique to support better digestion. To target the descending colon and rectum reflex area, focus on the left hand. Massage downward from under the small finger of the hand to just above the wrist. This reflex area corresponds to the final segment of the colon, where digested food remains are stored before elimination.

Try these tips, including hydration, movement, and hand reflexology, so you can maintain a comfortable digestive system while traveling and reduce the chances of constipation.

✈️ Tip # 4 - Stay Present

A common mistake among travelers is fixating on the time in the country they have left behind. It's natural for many to catch themselves saying, "Of course I'm tired now. It's the middle of the night in country X." However, dwelling on the previous time zone only confuses the mind and prevents you from adjusting to your new time zone.

A great way to combat this issue is to immediately set your watch to the time of your destination once you board the plane. By doing so, you consciously shift your focus to your destination and detach yourself from the time zone you've left behind. This simple adjustment can help prevent jet lag by aligning your thoughts and mindset with your new time zone.

This mental shift can help your body's adjustment process and facilitate a smoother transition to the new time zone, for jet lag prevention.

✈️ Tip # 5– 🎵 Let the Sun Shine 🎵

An important way to prevent jet lag is to help your body and mind adjust to the new time zone. This can be achieved by exposing yourself to light during the day and darkness at night.

During daylight hours at your destination, make it a point to go outside and bask in the sunlight. This exposure to natural light signals to your body that it is daytime, the time to be awake.

If you have a long flight with a daytime stopover lasting several hours, resist the temptation to remain within the confines of the airport terminal. Instead, venture outside and give your body the opportunity to soak in the daylight.

Spending time outdoors not only helps your body acclimate to the time change but also allows you to breathe in fresh air, providing a welcome escape from the stuffy planes and terminals.

While you are outside, take advantage of the opportunity for some physical activity. If you only have carry-on luggage and sufficient time between flights, consider walking between terminals rather than relying on shuttle buses or sky trains. For longer stopovers, inquire if there are options to take a bus or train into town, allowing you to explore on foot. However, always check with airport staff to determine the time needed for security lines to ensure you don't miss your flight!

By being in the sunlight, getting outdoors, and moving, you provide your body with valuable cues to adjust to the new time zone. This will aid in preventing jet lag and help you enjoy your trip.

✈️ Tip # 6 – Time Your Sleep

Today, our digital devices and in-flight entertainment systems offer us an abundance of movies, TV shows, and games to keep us occupied during long flights. While these options make our flight easier, it's important to also rest and sleep. During a long flight, make sure you close your eyes and take a nap for a few hours or opt for several short naps throughout the flight. However, be cautious not to oversleep, particularly if you're arriving at your destination in the evening and wish to go to bed soon after landing.

A commonly known trick to prevent jet lag, which has proven effective, is to stay awake until at least 10:00 PM (22:00) in your new destination. This will help you adjust to the local sleep schedule and promote a full night's rest. If possible, staying up until 11:00 PM or midnight increases your chances of sleeping through the night.

However, I feel compelled to share a cautionary tale based on one of our experiences in the US. After a transatlantic flight spanning nine time zones, my husband and I arrived in the early morning. Determined to stay awake until at least 10:00 PM, we spent the evening with close friends at their home. While on the couch, my husband kept closing his eyes and eventually stood up to remain awake. To our surprise, we heard a loud thud - my husband had fallen asleep while standing up and fell! Thankfully, our friends had a thick carpet, and my husband was unharmed. Every time I and my friends remember this moment we can’t stop giggling, but it serves as a reminder that while staying up late can aid in combating jet lag, it's advisable to do so while seated.

If you arrive early in the day and find it impossible to stay awake until late at night, allow yourself a very brief nap (no longer than one hour) and ensure you wake up promptly. Then, spend the remainder of the day outdoors, in the sunlight to help regulate your body's internal clock.

If you ever find yourself thinking, "I'll just close my eyes for a few minutes..." be sure to set an alarm on your phone. A few years ago, my husband and I arrived in San Francisco at 6:00 in the morning after a long transatlantic flight. While adjusting to the time change outdoors, we laid down on the grass intending to rest for “only a moment.” Luckily, I had set my phone alarm for 10 minutes. When it rang, we were sound asleep and would likely have slept for hours and ended up sunburned had I not set the alarm on my phone.

When it's time to sleep at night, create a dark environment in your room to facilitate better rest. If you or your children wake up during the night, keep the lights off and speak softly. In most cases, you will likely fall back asleep within an hour or two.

If you do get jet lag after a long flight, keep hydrated, stay outside during daylight, go to sleep late, and check our tips for better sleep in our sleep blog posts (see below)

In Summary, to prevent jet lag:

✔️Stay Hydrated


✔️Prevent Constipation

✔️Stay Present

✔️Stay outside during daylight ✔️Sleep in the dark

✔️Stay up till at least 10:00 PM (safely)

Whether you're planning an adventure or flying for a business trip, take our jet lag prevention tips with you to make sure you don’t lose any travel time due to jet lag. Enjoy your summer vacation, everyone! ---

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