Rustling and rumbling in your bed the night before a big trip? I know, I get excited for big trips, too. Trying every position possible to get some shut-eye on the plane ride to no avail? I get you. I remember my heavy eyelids after my flight to London from the intense jet lag and know what it’s like to not have my beauty sleep.
Recently I finished reading The Promise of Sleep, a dictionary-sized book by Dr. William Dement about sleep medicine. I’ll be honest—it was near impossible to not take a nap after reading a portion, but that isn’t a testament to dull literature. Dement founded the Stanford University Sleep Research Center and, long story short, is a big deal when it comes to being a pioneer in sleep medicine. I learned so much from this read and how I can beat jet lag with a little knowledge about sleep. Here are three tips to beat jet lag according to sleep specialists:
1. Make yourself at home — as much as you can
In his book, Dr. William Dement recommends reclining the airplane chair and placing a pillow or blanket under the small of your back to provide lumbar support. “A good pillow for your head is helpful, but an inflatable neck ring, which keeps the head from rolling in all directions, may be much more useful,” he says in his book.
In addition to bringing an inflatable neck ring, I also like to pack a light cardigan that I can easily tie around my waist for efficient movement but that can also double as a light blanket. A sleeping mask and earplugs are also essentials for me to get a blink of shut-eye.
2. Hold off on caffeine, booze and bubbles—
—and this is coming from a Starbucks Gold Card member. I love a good cup of java as much as the next gal, but it can make adjusting to local time more difficult. The National Sleep Foundation says that caffeine has a half-life of six hours, meaning a 4 p.m. iced coffee’s caffeine will still be in you till 10 p.m.
According to the National Sleep Foundation, “alcohol may actually interrupt your circadian rhythm by affecting levels of chemicals that tell your body when it’s time to sleep or wake up.” This is the reason you often wake up several hours after those couple rounds.
Even if it’s caffeine-free, you’re not off the hook with soft drinks. Carbonation can lead to bloating and stomach pressure, which can lead to heartburn, according to the National Sleep Foundation.
Swap the La Croix for some OJ. And skip out on the airplane wine because not only will it affect your sleep but French wine—maybe any wine—is better.
3. Adjust your sleep schedule to your destination’s clock — but not always
Some people like to change their clocks shortly before departure to adjust in advance, but Dement knows this rule can be bent at times. “If you find it too grueling to do everything the locals are doing on their schedule, go ahead and take a nap,” he says. “Your goal should be to try to do things on the local schedule, but don’t torture yourself over it.”
One way to get around clock adjustment is to, put simply, not. When Dement flew to Italy to give a speech, he purposely scheduled his meeting late afternoon Italy time to account for his internal clock stilling being on California time. “I was at my peak when I delivered it, and wide awake and alert at the subsequent banquet in honor of the speakers,” he says.
When planning out your trip itinerary, consider your internal clock still on home time, and allow yourself a “grace period” for the first day or two.
You may not have your memory foam pillow and king-sized mattress, but with these three tips, you can maximize and improve your sleep quality during travel and kick jet lag’s butt.