The jet lag checklist

Feeling jet lagged is no fun, and neither is getting sick. So here are some hacks to help you stay healthy and rested before, during and after your journey.

If you have ever traveled quickly across different time zones, you are likely familiar with the temporary sleep disorder: jet lag.

Jet lag occurs when your circadian rhythm — the internal clock that tells your body when to wake or sleep — is disrupted by changing time zones.12 Adjusting to a new time zone can be rough, causing symptoms like fatigue, anxiety, nausea, indigestion, brain fog and more.3

Combine this lack of sleep with dehydration and increased exposure to germs, and you end up with the perfect storm for getting sick.45 Experiencing jet lag or, even worse, falling ill can ruin a good chunk of your trip. So, if you want to beat jet lag and keep your immune system strong next time you fly away, here are some tips to keep in mind:

Pre-trip checklist

✔ Adjust bedtime

Help your body quickly adapt to a new time zone by adjusting your sleep schedule before your trip. For example, if the new time zone is hours ahead, start going to bed earlier so that the time change won’t be as significant once you arrive. 

✔ Hydrate

Staying hydrated is another essential part of combating jet lag.6 Prevent dehydration by drinking plenty of water and packing an empty water bottle to fill once you get through airport security. 

✔ Assess immune strength

Check your immune strength with imaware’s Immune Defense at-home test kit. The test may highlight weaknesses in your immune system that you can work to improve before you go.

In transit

✔ Clean hands

You are exposed to a lot of people and germs when flying.7 Minimize possible contact points as you go through the airport by avoiding high-touch surfaces and frequently washing your hands. For the plane, pack hand sanitizer or disinfectant wipes for nearby surfaces. 

✔ Hydrate (again)

Due to the low humidity levels on airplanes, it is easy to become dehydrated when flying, so keep drinking water throughout your flight.8

✔ Sleep

If it is nighttime at your destination, try your best to sleep during the flight. Improve your sleep experience with earplugs, an eye cover, a pillow and comfortable clothes. Additionally, only order non-caffeinated, non-alcoholic beverages from the refreshments cart and, if possible, select a good seat.910

According to one survey, window seats at the front of the plane are the best location for sleeping.11 

Upon arrival

✔ Stick to schedule

Once you arrive, follow your new location’s schedule — eat when it is mealtime, be awake during the day and sleep at night. To stay awake, go outside and let natural light help your internal clock reset.12 At night, even if it feels early, go to bed and utilize sleep tactics like avoiding screens or meditating. 

✔ Don’t sleep in

You may be tired from traveling or not getting a restful first night’s sleep but don’t sleep in too late, as it can prolong your adjustment period.13

Now you're ready to enjoy your trip! 

References

  1. National Institute of General Medical Sciences. Circadian Rhythms. Accessed October 5, 2022.
  2. Mayo Clinic. Jet lag disorder. Accessed October 5, 2022.
  3. National Health Service. Jet lag. Accessed October 5, 2022.
  4. Mayo Clinic. Lack of sleep: Can it make you sick? Accessed October 5, 2022.
  5. Applied Biological Sciences. Behaviors, movements, and transmission of droplet-mediated respiratory diseases during transcontinental airline flights. Accessed October 5, 2022. 
  6. National Library of Medicine - Medline Plus. Jet lag prevention. Accessed October 5, 2022.
  7. Cleveland Clinic. 6 Ways Airplane Travel Affects Your Body + How You Can Prepare. Accessed October 5, 2022.
  8. Cleveland Clinic. 6 Ways Airplane Travel Affects Your Body + How You Can Prepare. Accessed October 5, 2022.
  9. Cleveland Clinic. Caffeine: How to Hack It and How to Quit It. Accessed October 5, 2022.
  10. Sleep Foundation. Alcohol and Sleep. Accessed October 5, 2022.
  11. The Sleep Judge. Hacking Sleep While Flying. Accessed October 5, 2022.
  12. Mayo Clinic. Jet lag disorder. Accessed October 5, 2022.
  13. National Health Service. Jet lag. Accessed October 5, 2022.