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6 Jet Lag Remedies (That Really Work)

jet lagged man at work
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You stagger off the plane in Kathmandu after making the 20-hour journey from New York City. Your body thinks it’s 2 a.m.. But here in Nepal, it’s almost noon. This jet lag is like nothing you’ve ever experienced — you can’t even think straight. Is there a magical jet lag cure you can try?

Jet Lag Prevention vs. Jet Lag Cures

Jet lag — the disruption of the body’s circadian rhythms by crossing time zones —is no joke. Jet lag symptoms may include disturbed sleep, fatigue, irritability, anxiety, digestive upset and feelings of fuzziness or fogginess.

As with almost anything in life, an ounce of prevention is better than a pound of cure. Travel experts say you can avoid jet lag with tricks like adjusting your sleep routine and meal times before you leave.

But sometimes, you’re not able to follow the jet lag prevention guidelines. Maybe the call of the hotel bed is just too strong, and you end up sleeping when you shouldn’t. Maybe you had a few glasses of wine on the plane instead of herbal tea. Whatever the reason, you’re now feeling awful, and you can’t afford to just wait it out. (Recovery usually takes one day per time zone crossed, according to the Mayo Clinic.1) Take heart — we’ll tell you how to cure jet lag.

Help on the Fly

Before we share our top jet leg cures, here’s another resource that can help you out when you’re halfway around the world and the jet lag struggle is real: travel insurance. Face it, when you’re not at your best, things can go awry faster and easier than when you’re at your best. And Allianz Global Assistance travel insurance plans provide a number of benefits to help you in a pinch, whether you’re dealing with a travel delay or lost bag. Additionally, our 24-Hr. Hotline Assistance operators can help you find a pharmacy, urgent care facility, or whatever you need — no matter the time or language. Find the travel insurance plan that’s right for you and rest assured that you have one more potential remedy in your pocket if jet lag comes calling. Best of all, you can easily access this assistance directly from the TravelSmart mobile app.

6 Jet Lag Remedies To Try

  1. Take melatonin to help reset your internal clock. Melatonin is a hormone that helps regulate sleep. “Normally, melatonin levels begin to rise in the mid- to late evening, remain high for most of the night, and then drop in the early morning hours,” WebMD explains.2You can use small doses of melatonin to help your body shift its inner rhythms. Take a dose after dark on the first few days after you arrive.3Talk to your doctor first, however, because melatonin isn’t recommended for everyone.
  2. Soak up the sunshine. Sunlight is an effective jet lag cure because it’s a powerful way to adjust your circadian rhythms. If you traveled west, get out in the morning light and try to avoid afternoon sun; if you traveled east, do the reverse.4And if you’re up at the crack of dawn, make the most of it! “Get out and enjoy a ‘pinch me, I'm in Europe’ walk, as merchants set up in the marketplace and the town slowly comes to life,” says travel guru Rick Steves. “This may be the only sunrise you'll see in Europe.”
  3. Commit fully to your new time zone. Your stomach says it’s waffle time; the clock says it’s falafel time. Go with the clock on this one. “Don't try to ease into it. Embrace it,” Solo Traveler says of a major time zone shift.5This will speed up your adjustment period.
  4. Eat light meals. Nutritionists recommend eating smaller meals that include protein, complex carbs, fruits, and vegetables. That way, your energy levels will stay steady, instead of rising and crashing.6Delish recommends specific foods that serve as jet lag remedies, such as cherries, chicken, and quinoa — but if you’ve just landed in Rome, are you really going to look for a place that serves quinoa? Stay hydrated, too. Caffeine and alcohol may make jet lag symptoms worse. Drinking lots of water, juice or herbal tea can help your body recover faster.
  5. Move around. OK, the research is still coming in on this jet lag cure, but we’re liking what we’re seeing and learning so far. While exercise has long been rumored to be an effective means of restoring your body’s circadian rhythms to order, the science has been lacking — until now. Recent research from The Journal of Physiology buoys this belief, as the study showed that, regardless of age or sex, exercising at 7 a.m. or between 1 and 4 p.m. caused participants’ circadian rhythm to occur earlier, while exercising between 7 and 10 p.m. shifted the body clock back. So, hit your hotel’s gym or take to local trails accordingly; you can’t argue with science.
  6. See a doctor about serious jet lag. Jet lag usually eases after a few days, depending on how far you’ve traveled. But can jet lag symptoms last for a week or two? Definitely. If you travel frequently and you have a hard time recovering from jet lag, or feel like you’re in a perpetual fog, you should consult your doctor. Possible prescriptions include sleeping medications or light therapy.

Jet lag can make delivering that all-important business presentation a lofty challenge. It can curtail the enjoyment of what’s supposed to be the greatest trip of your life. But with the right preventative measures and cures at your disposal, you can feel like the best version of yourself no matter the time or time zone.

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Aug 15, 2019