3 Ways to Use Jet Lag to Your Advantage

There’s something exciting about crossing multiple time zones. You can’t help but try to count how many hours you’re saving or feel like you’ve been propelled into the future, and think about what everyone else is doing back home.

A not-so-fun part of this part of travel is jet lag. This disorder affects people when they cross time zones and can’t sleep when they get there.

Jet lag occurs because of the circadian rhythms in your body that tell you when it’s time to sleep. It can take a few days before these signals adjust to the new time zone.

In the meantime, you’re dealing with the symptoms of this jet lag, plus tossing and turning all night. But if you’re going to be awake anyway, why not use this to your advantage?

1. Pre-Set Your New Schedule

Most of us don’t travel across countries without a little warning. You can use this heads-up to prepare for your time change and reduce the severity of jet lag with small adjustments in your schedule.

A few days before you know you’re heading out on your trip, start adapting your sleep cycle to go to bed and get up earlier or later, depending on which way your time zone change is.

So, if you live in Eastern Time (ET) and you’re heading to Pacific Time (PT), you have a three-hour change backward. You’re going to be staying up later and getting up later than you’re used to. Slowly start making this adjustment while you’re in ET, and it will be easier to transition into PT when you get there.

2. Use the Extra Time Productively

When you try to put yourself to bed at your “normal bedtime,” you end up laying in bed stressing about the time you’re wasting. This inability to sleep is your body telling you it’s not ready to rest yet. You could be doing other things to be productive instead.

Remember all the times you wished you had a few extra hours in your day? This is your opportunity to make that wish come true.

What do you need to do for yourself that you rarely have time for?

For example, if you’ve been hoping to start an exercise regimen, and you’re in a hotel with a fitness center or morning workout classes, check them out. If you are going to be at the hotel longer than a day or two, you have time to get this new habit cemented into your daily routine.

Catch up on reading that long list of books you’ve put off, get your email inbox organized, or do any of those myriad tasks you know you need to do but never seem to have room in your day for. Now you have time until the jet lag wears off. Take advantage of it!

3. Clear Your Head

Can you remember the last time you had hours in front of you to do absolutely nothing? In today’s busy world full of non-stop hustle and bustle, most of us don’t get this valuable treasure.

Yes, that’s what free time is: a treasure. How are you spending yours?

You could catch up on your to-do list, but that’s always going to be there. Sometimes, rather than continuing to run in circles, we need to stop for a while and clear our heads.

This extra time you’re spending dealing with jet lag could also include symptoms like nausea, headache, and stomach issues. If so, you probably don’t feel like being productive. That’s okay, too. You can “productively” do nothing by sitting quietly and resting your mind, body, and soul.

It’s not an exaggeration to say that millions of people don’t know how to do nothing. We’re so used to having something to keep us occupied, like our phone or TV, that sitting in the silence can be, well, a bit stressful.

Try it, though. Find a quiet, comfortable place to sit outside or in the dark in your room, and try not to think about anything. If you need a little help, use a meditation app, like Headspace or Calm.

Give yourself at least 15 minutes to do absolutely nothing. The first five minutes or so will be spent chasing your thoughts around, but soon, you’ll be hooked on the silence and peace that comes with this time. And when you do go back to your normal schedule, you’ll have a refreshed mind ready to tackle your to-dos.


Jet lag doesn’t always happen, but when it does, it can be the reset button you’ve needed in your routine. Don’t stress about it — use it to your advantage with these three tips.

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