Nootropic Travel Hacking: Avoid Jet Lag and Prevent Illness

In the last year 2.2 billion trips were logged in the United States alone [1]. All of these trips included someone in a new city, sleeping in a foreign bed, and trying not to let the rigors of travel get in the way of their business meetings or leisure outings.

Traveling can take a serious toll on the body especially via airplanes over long distances. The human body isn’t prepared to handle such huge shifts in geographical location. Our circadian rhythm does not adapt quickly enough, which leaves many people lacking their usual mental performance.

With a few practices and strategic nootropic supplementation, it’s possible to prevent or avoid most of the problems that reduce your mental performance. With our jet lag tips, we are going to not only teach you how to avoid jet lag, but also how to get over jet lag once you have arrived in your final destination.

How Does Travel Impact the Body?

Travel creates confusion in the body's circadian rhythm, which makes it difficult to sleep properly, remain focused during the day, and avoid feelings of fatigue.

In one Sports Medicine study in 1989, doctors analyzed athletes and noted worse performance after traveling internationally and domestically. The condition (known as dysrhythmia) was associated with malaise, appetite loss, tiredness, and disturbed sleep [2].

All of these were symptoms of shifts of the light / dark cycle, which makes the human body unable to regulate temperature properly, use energy stores, and it affects water excretion.

Interestingly, if you are traveling eastwards it is going to be harder for your body to adapt to jet lag than if you are traveling westwards [3] [4].

how to avoid jet lag

Jet Lag Tips: The #1 Way to Prevent Jet Lag

The number one way to avoid jet lag is through a combination of light therapy and melatonin [5].

In the Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews, a 2002 study on melatonin and jet lag showed 90% of melatonin users found reduced symptoms of jet lag with supplementation [6].

The regimen they used included between 0.5 to 5 mg of melatonin although people fell asleep faster at the higher dose ranges. There was no real benefit of taking doses higher than 5 mg.

According to the study, 2 mg slow-release melatonin was virtually ineffective, which suggested that a short-lived peak concentration of melatonin worked better for preventing jet lag.

In simple terms, don’t use slow-release melatonin to combat jet lag because it doesn’t work.

If you are traveling eastwards and 4 – 5 time zones or more, it may be a good idea to consider taking melatonin in short-term instances so that you can properly regulate your sleep cycles and avoid feelings of jet lag.

For those who want to go the extra mile, you can use a bright light box (usually used for seasonal depression disorders) a few days before the trip to adapt your body to the change. To get an idea about how to do this, you can see this link.

Supplement Free Jet Lag Recovery

Although most readers of Nootropedia are fairly interested in supplements, there are plenty of ways you can utilize practices over products. Here are a few jet lag tips for you to follow:

Drink plenty of water

The human body doesn’t handle water excretion very well while suffering from jet lag. Even worse, the dry cabin air on an airplane leads to dehydration. If you’re not already drinking plenty of water while traveling, it would be useful to drink even more. This will aid the process of getting your circadian rhythm in back in sync [7].

Caffeine and alcohol

You might find caffeine to be self-explanatory when you are trying to overcome jet lag, but alcohol has a similarly negative effect before sleep. Many people use alcohol to fall asleep, but studies suggest it will hurt jet lag adaptation.


Taking small naps of 20 minutes or so will help you to maintain alertness during the day in a non-stimulatory way. Adding caffeine and other smart drugs might not be an option for you and napping will help. Be careful not to nap too long or else the rhythm will be difficult to maintain. If you allow yourself to sleep for too long, you could delay the adaptation to your new time zone.

Travel Downside: Stress and Immune Health

The downstream effects of changing circadian rhythms combined with uncomfortable travel situations creates a recipe for added stress and a compromised immune system.

Scrutinization during security, carrying belongings, long seated expeditions, and poor sleeping quarters all add to the body’s feeling of stress. Naturally, this interacts with the immune system in a way that can open the body to illness and disease.

If it seems like you get sick or lethargic every time you travel, you are not alone!

how to get over jet lag

Here are a list of nootropics you can utilize for your travel. As I prepare for a 2 week road trip of Iceland, I will include my personal stack at the bottom.

The best bet for reducing stress while traveling are adaptogens. These herbs will help your body overcome the acute stress of travel so that you can bolster your immune system. Primary examples of this are:

If you feel a certain level of anxiety that comes with your travel experience, don’t feel scared to use anxiety-relieving nootropics like lemon balm or bacopa monnieri. All of these options will be helpful.

For a strong immune system, the best bet is to use Vitamin C at a high dosage or look into reishi mushroom as a natural booster. According to Reddit moderator MisterYouAreSoDumb, it’s also possible to utilize EpiCor (fermented yeast supplement) in order to prevent sickness.

Personal Travel Stack

[Stack last edited: September 30, 2016]

Traveling to Iceland October 4 – 19, 2016 my trip itinerary is not friendly (4 time zones). Here are a few of the options I’m going to keep with me:

  • 2,000 mg Vitamin C (day before, day of, and day after travel)
  • 2 mg Melatonin (as needed if I cannot sleep on the plane to Iceland)
  • 260 mg Activated Charcoal (according to Dave Asprey, when sleep is disturbed our gut creates more endotoxins and charcoal binds them) [8]
  • 2,000 mg Krill oil (daily before bed to aid in sleep)

Used as needed:

  • Huperzine A – While I cannot find the study, I have been told huperzine A can increase REM sleep quality by 30%
  • Lemon Balm extract
  • Magnesium
References (Click to Expand)
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