Embrace Outside with Molly Hurford


Avoiding the Worst of Jet Lag

December 17, 2016

Avoiding the Worst of Jet Lag


Clearly, I spend a lot of time on planes. And in the next month, I’ll have two more overnight flights and two flights from Europe back to the US, one all the way to the West Coast. So, jet lag and I are on pretty close terms. This year, though, I think I’ve finally nailed avoiding the worst of jet lag—it’s never going to be perfect, but it can get way better! As I write this, it’s 4AM where I left in the US, but 11AM in Belgium, where I landed a few hours ago. And I’m still awake!


I’m a huge fan of working out ahead of your plane ride, even if it’s short one. If you’re strapped for time, just do a quick core routine, some planks, some yoga, a super fast jog around the neighborhood—just get blood flowing! Really helps get to sleep and alleviates the soreness/grossness of not moving for 12+ hours.

Prep for the Plane

I know that not all of us are balling in first class—if you’re reading this looking for tips, I’m going to assume right now that you’re definitely not cozy with a duvet and your feet up while you sip champagne. I wrote this piece about balancing some good livin’ with economy seating a while back, and I stand by all of it for making your flight go easier. I’ve also started carrying an absolutely 100% sealed thermos mug for ginger tea and Nalgene water bottle with me (after a spill incident made me feel like a goofball last trip). But the best advice I have is simple: have a travel bag with just the essentials for sleeping, all ultra-easy access, for under your seat and stow the rest. Be pretty much ready to pass out as soon as you get on the plane.


Or noise-cancelling headphones. Thank me later.

Skip Airline Meals

This was a new one for me this year but I’m really preferring it. When possible, have a normal meal in the airport (bring your own if you can!). But last trip, I had a short layover and had to opt for a protein shake that I brought with me and a banana I grabbed at a newsstand. (OK, and a cookie. I’m human!) Getting on the plane and immediately eating dinner really, really helped.

Skip Booze, Too (and Coffee)

Sorry. But the more sleep you get on the plane, the less awful landing is. A note on the coffee: have it in the morning if it’s imperative for your brain function/digestion/disposition. But remember the time zone shift you’re about to hit and drink accordingly. So, for example, I knew that even though our flight to Brussels left at 6PM in Chicago, it was really leaving at 1AM, Brussels time. Which meant that around 11AM Chicago time, I stopped drinking anything with caffeine so I was ready for bed when we took off.

Avoid Drugs

I’m a firm believer that drugged sleep on planes isn’t good sleep on planes. Sure, you’re out of it, but I think it makes you groggier than you would be if you just snoozed sans drugs. Even melatonin on planes isn’t a good idea, in my book. (Save that for when your internal clock is screwed up on Day 2 of your trip.) The post-plane hangover sucks, but it’s easily avoidable. (And I’ve heard horror stories of people dosing themselves with sleeping aids only to find their flight delayed or canceled, and trying to sort out flight stuff while basically tripping on sleep meds is a huge hassle.)

Eat As Clean As Possible

When you get to your destination, opt for some good, clean protein (like hard boiled eggs), plus as many veggies and fruits as possible. The protein will help wake you up, and the fiber in fruit and veggies will help you avoid some of the digestive issues you might face otherwise.


If you feel the urgent need to pass out when you get to your destination, fight it. Go for a quick walk or do a few stretches, and then hop in the shower. You’ll feel a million times better and a lot less grimy—and probably more awake!

Stay Up

Get on local time AS SOON AS POSSIBLE. Basic rule of thumb—be tired on Day 1 to get a good night of sleep later. And if you have trouble falling asleep or wake up in the middle of the night, have a boring book or soothing music on hand—don’t just get up.

OK, what are your best jet lag tips?




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