Swap sleeping pills and countless cups of coffee for these fast fixes.
Photo: Matej Kastelic/Shutterstock
Nothing ruins a good trip faster than a case of jet lag. Changing time zones quickly creates a disconnect between your body's circadian rhythms (your internal clock) and the physical environment, causing a whole host of issues ranging from fatigue and sluggishness to digestive problems. Fun. (Related: Why Being a Frequent Flyer Hurts Your Health)
When it comes to combating jet lag, there are the usual fixes—popping melatonin, slipping on an eye mask, getting some exercise, COFFEE. But there's also a whole new wave of more creative, outside-the-box cures. Consider trying any one of these six surprising solutions the next time you have a long flight.
It can be hard to resist snacking all flight long, but fasting while changing time zones may be beneficial in more ways than one. The premise: Waiting to eat until you reach your destination resets your body's clock, warding off not only the effects of jet lag but also helping diminish some of the digestive issues flying can cause (bye-bye bloating). The one caveat? This works best when you're on an overnight flight during which you can both sleep AND fast, then eat breakfast once you wake up in your new destination (essentially mimicking what happens during a normal night's sleep).
2. Book a massage.
As if you needed another reason to book a rubdown, turns out it can also be a good way to defeat jet lag. "A massage can help reset your circadian rhythms, not to mention alleviate both the physical and mental tension that comes with a long flight," says Aristides Carrillo, spa director of the Willow Stream Spa at the Fairmont Mayakoba in Riviera Maya, Mexico, which offers a unique deep sleep massage. True to its name, it's specially created to help regulate sleep patterns, with an added emphasis on lymphatic drainage to flush out toxins and improve circulation. A unique blend of essential oils—peppermint and lavender—help make the massage equally relaxing and energizing, while special attention paid to legs, feet, back, neck, and shoulders help travel-induced stiffness. (Related: 7 Essential Oils for Anxiety and Stress Relief)
3. Try acupressure.
Take a cue from Eastern medicine—no needles needed. Gently pressing on certain acupressure points—spots on the body that correlate to specific energy channels—can help alleviate a long list of ailments, including jet lag. For this, a powerful acupressure point found on your leg, known as Stomach 36 (ST36), is one of the best; it promotes immunity and sleep, while also helping fatigue and digestive issues, says Elizabeth Trattner, acupuncturist and doctor of Chinese and integrative medicine. Place four fingers under your kneecap, along the outside edge of your shinbone; you'll feel a small dip in the skin. Press down gently for one to three minutes, and repeat as often as needed, both during flight and when you land.
4. Listen to the right music.
The long list of free movies can be tempting but you might want to skip TV time. The blue light emitted by electronic devices can mess with your circadian rhythms, the last thing you want on a long flight (it's also why you should try to avoid using devices before bedtime at home). Listen to music instead, though keep in mind that not all tunes are created equal. The Brain.fm app (first five sessions free; $6.99 monthly) offers unique music specially created to help your brain transition from its wired, awake state into a deep sleep, thanks to just the right combo of instruments, genre, and tempo. Your playlist can't do that. Plus, simply sporting headphones can help. "Sound and vibrations from the plane can throw your system off as well. Noise-canceling headphones or earplugs can keep your body at its most normal, as well as help combat pressure that can lead to headaches," says certified health and wellness coach Ashley Walter. (Related: How to Sleep On Any Flight, According to Top Sleep Docs)
5. Eat more frequently.
If fasting throughout an entire flight isn't an option, know that when you eat your meals may be just as important as when you sleep. Maintaining regular, evenly spaced meals can help get and keep your body on a schedule—and it's not so much when you're eating, but more so how often. Aim for a normal, set meal every four to five hours, both in-flight and the day after travel, too. Given that jet lag can also cause weight gain, this is a smart way to make sure you don't inadvertently take down a day's worth of calories during one international flight.
6. Drink banana tea.
File this one under strange but true. If you're having trouble sleeping—whether on the plane or once you arrive at your destination—reach for a banana, rather than the traditional melatonin pill. Steep it, with the peel, in hot water for eight minutes, then drink up, suggests Tania Elliott, M.D., chief medical officer of EHE. "It's a great source of magnesium, which relaxes your muscles and promotes sleep," she says. (The micronutrient has a host of other benefits, too.)