Jet lag is problematic for business travelers who need to be alert for work – but the drag of jet lag is also a problem for tourists who just want to wake up enough to sip a mai tai on a Hawaiian beach! These natural sleep remedies will help you adjust to the time zone your in, overcome jet lag, and do the work (or rest, or exploration) you’re called to do.
If you’re a traveler like me, you’re reluctant to use over-the-counter sleep natural aids because even half a tablet lasts until noon the next day. I remember taking these Sleep Tabs and Night-time Sleep-Aid after an overnight flight to Vienna, Austria. That sleep tablet was so effective that I was groggy until noon the next day. Now that I’m several years older and slightly wiser, I realize that I should’ve only taken half a tablet to start. I weigh less than 100 pounds; a full natural sleep aid is too strong for me.
That said, however, my husband finds sleep aids and tablets perfect for overseas flights that cross time zones – and even overnight train and sleeper bus trips. And I’ll happily take half a tablet on my flight from Vancouver, Canada to Kathmandu, Nepal in two months!
Despite the effectiveness and popularity of over-the-counter sleep remedies, we can’t rely solely on sleeping pills to help us overcome jet lag. These natural remedies for travelers suffering from jet lat are four sleep experts: a psychologist, a yogi, a sleep doctor, and a hotel manager (who knows a lot more than you’d think about insomnia!).
How to Fall Asleep Fast and Stay Sleeping: 9 Natural Sleep Remedies
If you have any tips or natural sleep remedies for overcoming jet lag, feel free to share them below. I try to avoid prescription sleeping pills or over-the-counter sleep tablets because they really do a number on my system. I’ll try taking a quarter of a sleeping pill when I fly to Nepal; this is a solo journey for me and the last thing I need is to be groggy when I land in Kathmandu!
You’ve probably heard of some of these natural sleep remedies before. I added a spiritual twist to a few of the experts’ tips for sleeping faster and better. My tips won’t put you to sleep. Unless, of course, you actually try them. If you given them a chance, my natural sleep remedies will so effective you won’t have to worry about overcoming jet lag! You’ll sleep right through it. :-)
1. “What, me worry?” A sleep tip from a psychiatry professor
“Many folks have trouble getting to sleep because their thoughts race or they begin worrying,” says Dr Katherine Muller, Psy.D., Assistant Professor of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences at Albert Einstein College of Medicine. “For this problem, I use a cognitive behavioral therapy technique called ‘worry time.’ About a hour before you want to sleep, sit down with paper and a pen and ‘download’ all of your current worries onto paper. Try your best to worry for 20 minutes and jot down everything that comes to mind. When the 20 minutes are up, leave the list of worries where it is and proceed with your nightly routine for bed. This technique seems to help people temporarily let go of the concerns they chew on when trying to sleep.”
My spiritual twist on this natural sleep remedy: This natural sleep remedy helps me overcome jet lag and strengthens my relationship with God when I write my prayers down. Instead of worrying about stuff in general, I write letters to God. I question, complain, marvel and generally write whatever comes to mind. This is a surprisingly effective way to fall asleep fast and stay sleeping all night long.
2. Sesame Oil: A natural sleep remedy from a yogi
You don’t have to travel to India to explore this natural, healthy way to overcome jet lag. Ayurvedic medicine has been used as a natural sleep remedy for ages. This particular practice is also good for aching, tired, dry feet! Gently rub sesame oil into the bottoms of your feet just as you get into bed. The sesame oil will help calm your system and overcome jet lag naturally. Sesame oil can help you fall asleep faster and stay sleeping all night long, which will help your body adjust to the changing time zones.
The aroma of sesame oil produces a calming sensation that relaxes both your mind and body, which helps you fall asleep naturally. Develop a routine of rubbing sesame oil into your feet every night – even if you’re not actually experiencing jet lag right now. Getting into this habit will teach your mind and body that it’s time to wind down and go to sleep the minute you reach for the bottle of sesame oil.
Banyan Botanicals Sesame Oil, Certified Organic is a popular, safe, economical way to feel your way a new bedtime rhythm. Sesame oil is most traditional of all oils used in Ayurvedic medicine and healing.
Sesame oil as a natural sleep remedy has a practical tip: the foot of the bed tends to be the coldest area, and warming your feet will help you relax and fall asleep faster. Warm feet and the scent of sesame oil will cause your eyes to droop and your heart rate to slow. Note that this may be one of those natural sleep remedies that you have to start before you’re trying to overcome jet lag. Give your body and mind time to adapt to this new bedtime routine.
3. Consider a “sleep right” pillow
My Bamboo Shredded Memory Foam Bed Pillow helps me fall asleep fast and stay sleeping all night, but it won’t be a natural remedy for overcoming jet lag when I cross three time zones and land in Kathmandu, Nepal. Why? Because I’m leaving it at home! It’s heavy and bulky. But when I get home and am struggling to overcome jet lag, this pillow will be just what I need.
If you’re a woman in perimenopause or menopause, you may not like a memory foam pillow. In fact, memory foam pillows can disrupt sleep for women who are coping with hot flashes and night sweats. Memory foam tends to hold in heat – which is great for women who are cold at night. I like my memory foam pillow because I no longer get hot flashes.
4. Learn about aromatherapy (a natural sleep remedy for some jet lagged travelers)
Try a combination of lavender, chamomile, and jasmine oils, which have all been used since ancient times to as natural remedies. They can reduce anxiety, stress, tension, sleeplessness, and headaches. These oils may be lightly dabbed on the pillowcase or over pressure points like the wrist and neck, and they might help you stay sleeping all night.
My spiritual twist on this natural sleep remedy: Combine aromatherapy, prayer and a very light, mild incense. Read The Powerful Benefits of the Best Types of Incense to learn more about this ancient spiritual practice.
5. Eat your cherries (but with a grain of salt)
“Dried cherries are chock-full of melatonin – even more so than fresh cherries,” says Ericka Nelson, general manager of 70 Park Avenue Hotel in New York City. “Scientific studies have proven that eating dried cherries an hour before bedtime promotes a restful sleep.”
Is eating cherries one of those natural sleep remedies that will actually help you overcome jet lag? I’m not convinced, to tell you the truth. I originally wrote this article (9 Natural Sleep Remedies to Help You Fall Asleep Fast and Stay Sleeping Longer) in 2009. That was 10 years ago! Back then, I believed a research study or two that said cherries are a natural remedy for sleep. Now I don’t think there is enough of anything sleep-promoting in cherries to actually help someone fall asleep – much less help them stay sleeping all night.
6. Research all-natural sleep aids that are safe for the whole family
If you’re a parent traveling with kids, you’re not the only one who needs help overcoming jet lag! Look for natural sleep remedies the that are safe for children and teens, too.
For example, Bach Rescue Sleep Liquid Melts are dissolvable capsules help kids and adults fall asleep faster. They don’t have negative or unhealthy interactions with other medicine or herbs. Back Rescue Sleep tablets (or dissolvable capsules, or spray!) contain a blend of six bach flower essences including white chestnut which helps to calm the racing mind.
“I often recommend Rescue Sleep to my patients as a safe, natural, non-narcotic solution to combat their stress levels and help with sleeplessness,” says Dr Ronald Stram, M.D., founder of The Stram Center for Integrative Medicine.
7. Learn how melatonin affects your sleep cycle
Melatonin is your body’s own natural sleep hormone; taking melatonin supplements can be a natural remedy for overcoming jet lag for both kids and adults. The dose is typically 3-10 mg per night until your body has adjusted to the time zone and you’re getting a good night’s sleep. Note that melatonin isn’t a natural sleep remedy that works the same for every jet lagged traveler. In fact, it may not work for anyone! And it works too well for others (that’s why I was groggy until after lunch the day after I took an over-the-counter sleeping pill to help me overcome jet lag in Vienna).
Melatonin isn’t just a natural sleep remedy for travelers; it helps shift workers who are trying to overcome “jet lag” every day. Night shift work has the same physical and cognitive effects as crossing time zones. Also, people over 60 years old often have low melatonin levels. This explains why elderly people don’t sleep as much as they did when they were younger.
8. Don’t “eat” the myth that tryptophan in turkey is a natural sleep aid
As I mentioned above – in “eat your cherries” sleep tip above for overcoming jet lag and getting a better night’s sleep – I wrote this article in 2009. That was 10 years ago! Back then, I believed a research study or two that said tryptophan in turkey was one of the most effective food-based natural remedies for sleep.
Here’s what I said: “Turkey contains a natural sleep-inducing chemical called tryptophan – and so do bananas, dates, warm milk, chicken, eggs, tofu, and dairy products. Increasing tryptophan may help to normalize sleep patterns. Tryptophan is an amino acid and a natural sleep sedative. Avoid foods that contain the amino acids tyramine and tyrosine, because they stimulate the release of adrenaline (epinephrine) in the body. Foods containing tyramine include bacon, ham and sausage, aged cheeses, cocoa products, eggplant, and potatoes.”
Since then, I learned that most people can’t eat enough turkey to actually absorb enough tryptophan to make them fall asleep faster – much less overcome jet lag! The lesson? Don’t believe everything you write, think, or feel. Not all research – and not every natural sleep remedy – is as effective as it may seem.
9. Warm socks make you sleepy
“Soak your feet in a very warm to hot Epsom salt foot bath for about 10-15 minutes (one cup of Epsom salt per 2 gallons of water),” says Dr Stram. “Prepare your bed with a towel by your feet, take ankle socks and soak in very cold water, wring them out so they are damp dry and place them on your feet, then place thermal socks over the ankle socks and go to bed. Your feet will dry after a few hours, and the blood flow will warm your feet.”
Which reminds me of the one of the first natural sleep remedies to help you overcome jet lag: massage sesame oil into your feet. I believe the habit, rhythm or practice of a nightly ritual will help you fall asleep faster. If you have an evening rhythm, your body will start winding down when it’s time. This rhythm may not overcome jet lag, but it will help you relax when you’re traveling into a new time zone…or when you just want to fall asleep fast and stay sleeping all night long.