This blog post was updated on July 22, 2021.
Every traveler at some point or another has encountered jet lag. When you travel quickly across several time zones, jet lag can be paralyzing toward seeing and experiencing where you flew all this way to be. And with such a common travel problem come a fair share of myths and theories as to how to cure jet lag. While there is no known cure for jet lag, there are a number of myths you shouldn’t buy into, those theories that will only make your jet lag linger around for your whole trip.
You can sleep off jet lag: One popular theory about jet lag is that you can just sleep it off. However, this might be the worst thing you can do. If you travel from San Francisco to Paris, arriving in the morning in Paris, you shouldn’t head straight to bed. You won’t get acclimated to a new time zone and you will only further your zombie-like status later in the day. Sleeping off jet lag, even if it isn’t nighttime in your destination, will not give your body a chance to get on the right time zone. You need to try to stay up once you touch down until a more normal bedtime.
Alcohol helps with sleeping on an airplane: It might seem like a good idea to have some red wine on your flight to Hong Kong to knock you out and avoid jet lag as a result. However, alcohol will only make you more dehydrated and increase the effects of jet lag. The cabin pressure of the airplane can be extremely dehydrating. Rather than reaching for that glass of wine or cocktail, stick to water to lessen jet lag’s effects. Both alcohol and caffeine should also be avoided several hours before bedtime.
Sleeping pills cure jet lag: Some travelers are of the belief that jet lag is merely a sleeping pill away from being cured. The National Sleep Foundation however debunks this myth, saying that while a sleeping pill can help cure short-term insomnia, it doesn’t tackle the biological imbalance caused by jet lag. While you can use a sleeping pill to help you sleep on the plane or for your first night in a new locale, most likely you won’t be completely cured of jet lag and its effects.
Adjusting sleep-wise to your destination’s time zone before you leave won’t work: For some travelers, they don’t believe that adjusting gradually to their destination’s time zone will lessen the effects of jet lag. However, many experts believe that if you gradually start getting up or going to bed earlier depending on where you are going, you can lessen the power of jet lag. Many experts also recommend setting your watch to local time at your destination when you get on the plane. This will help your mind and body see when you should be sleeping and when you should be awake.
You should stay indoors and rest to get over jet lag: While you might feel as though the best thing for anyone you encounter once you touch down is to stay inside and rest to get over jet lag and its potential crankiness, this is actually the worst thing you can do. Staying inside makes jet lag worse. If you arrive in the morning to your destination, it is best to stay outside and get as much daylight in your system as possible. Daylight acts as a stimulant for getting your biological clock back on track.