The Insomniacs Guide to Beating Jet Lag

If falling asleep at your regular bedtime is hard, trying to fall asleep 5 hours earlier in a different time zone can be a nightmare. And if you’re staying in someones home as a guest, it only puts more pressure on you to get on a local schedule as quickly as possible. Here are a few things you can try the next time you’re sleeping far away from home.

1) Bring an eye mask

One of the biggest detriments to a good nights sleep is light. When you’re traveling, you can never count on airplanes or accommodations to provide a completely dark environment. Buy a comfortable eye mask and bring it with you. You can use it forever and it barely costs a thing- in fact, the one I currently use I got for free on a Jet Blue flight.

2) Pull an all-nighter

This is dramatic but might be just what you need. I wouldn’t recommend it if I hand’t tried it myself. The night before my flight to the furthest possible time zone from my own (exactly 12 hours difference), I decided to just not go to sleep. It was easy for the first few hours after my normal bedtime, but got progressively harder as the night went on. I kept myself awake by listening to loud music through my headphones and walking around my house. I was exhausted the next morning, but when I arrived on the other side of the world, my sleep schedule was perfectly aligned with local time. I was so amazed that my all-nighter had worked so well, but very happy.

3) Spend time in the sun

A beach would be perfect. Being in sunlight for an extended period of time is fatiguing. It takes a lot of energy for your body to keep you cool. If you think you will have trouble falling asleep on a trip, find any excuse to spend a few hours in the sun- even just to read or have lunch- and it will be much easier for you to sleep at night.

4) Use sleep aids

If you’re weary of sleeping pills like I am, try melatonin tablets. Melatonin is what your body naturally produces when the sun goes down, and sometimes your body just needs a little help. Melatonin wont make you fall asleep like sleeping pills will, but it will help the process.

5) Cool off

Being cold helps you get to sleep. There have been way too many nights that I spent tossing and turning for hours, only to realize in the middle of the night that I am over heating. Turn on your air conditioner, take a cold shower, or do what I do when you have limited time and there are no air conditioners in the country you are visiting- soak a towel or a sheet in water in the sink, ring it out, and lay it over yourself while you sleep. You’ll be wet, but you’ll be far more comfortable.

6) Wake up naturally

We are built to become drowsy after the sun sets and wake up slowly as it rises, when we’ve reached the end of a dream cycle. Most alarm clocks are built to completely ignore these facts and just beep loudly at the time you set them.

If you want to wake up more naturally and in a less jarring way, keep the shades of your window open so sunlight can fill your room in the morning. It will be much easier to get yourself out of bed if your body isn’t being tricked by the darkness into thinking its the dead of night.

Or you can replace your traditional alarm clock with a more creative one- there are some really interesting options on the market. You can find alarm clocks that start to glow and slowly get brighter up until the time you have decided to wake up, pillows that vibrate to wake you, and now there is even a device you can wear on your wrist that senses when you have finished a sleep cycle and wakes you up at the end of the sleep cycle closest to your set wake-up time.

7) Listen to white noise

Its good to drown out noise in a new place and to relax you. You don’t have to buy one of those noise-making devices though, there are plenty of websites that will play white noise for you all night long. My favorite is which I use when the snoring people in the room next to me get particularly loud, or when my brain is on overdrive and needs to slow down. You can also download tons of white noise to your iPod.

If all else fails, you could always embrace your insomnia and watch infomercials at 5 in the morning- I ended up doing this for a few days, and let me tell you, the Ah Bra is not just a bra, its a way of life.

What are some methods you have used to try to get over jet lag?