The Medication Rick Steves Swears By To Fight Jet Lag

When Taylor Swift flew from Tokyo to Las Vegas to watch boyfriend Travis Kelce play in the Super Bowl, he expressed surprise and amazement that she was able to make it there without being jet-lagged. To which she allegedly jokingly replied, via Us Weekly, "Jet lag is a choice." For those of us without private planes, though, jet lag may be less of a choice and an inescapable part of traveling across time zones. But not to worry — professional international traveler Rick Steves has any number of great travel tips, including a prescription to fighting jet lag — zolpidem.


You may not have heard of zolpidem, but you've probably heard of its brand name — Ambien. On his website, Steves wrote, "I must admit that the sleep aid zolpidem [..] has become my friend in fighting jet lag," before going into why and when he suggests people take medication to help handle this problem. For Steves, it sounds like he takes it to help him on his first night of a big trip: "Managing a good seven hours of sleep a night in Europe (or after flying home) hastens my transition to local time. That way, I'm not disabled by sleepiness that first afternoon and can stay awake until a decent bedtime."

Always follow Ambien medication guidelines and consider side effects

If you've ever found yourself lying awake in the middle of the night and watching the clock tick by unable to fall asleep as much as you want to and knowing how much you need to, being able to take a pill and fall asleep quickly sounds like a dream. But it's important to consider some important factors when it comes to getting a prescription for zolpidem and always talk to your doctor about any medications that you're taking.


Rick Steves noted that zolpidem can have side effects. Some of those include drowsiness, headaches, and nasal congestion, according to the Cleveland Clinic. He also reminded people that could potentially become dependent on zolpidem. There is a relatively low risk that zolpidem use will become a problematic addiction; however, there is still a risk, per Mayo Clinic. That's why you should use it just on occasion, like for the first night of a trip to help counter jet lag, as compared to relying on it long-term to help you get to sleep.

You should also use it when you have time for a full night's sleep — seven to nine hours. Don't take it if you need to be up and about in less time since the medicine will still be in your system, and don't pair it with alcohol.


Getting a good night's sleep will help but not eliminate jet lag

The goal with taking medication like zolpidem isn't that it will completely wipe away jet lag; it will inevitably take your body awhile to adjust to time zone changes — up to a day for each hour difference. There's really no way around that. But it can help you get some much-needed sleep to help boost your chances of adjusting more quickly to the daylight hours at your destination. Because after you've followed Rick Steves' tips to planning a successful vacation, you don't want being sleepy and jet-lagged to ruin that well-planned out trip.


Getting a full night's sleep with the help of a sleeping aid is just one way to help counter jet lag. If you arrive early in the day at your destination, avoid taking a hot shower after your flight and brave a cold shower to help wake up your body. Steves also recommends staying awake until early evening in your new time zone to help get your body used to the new rhythm and prevent you from waking up at 3 am with nothing to do but stare at the ceiling.

So while you may not be able to just Taylor Swift the situation and choose to not have jet lag, if you've often found yourself unable to sleep on your first night of vacation, check in with your doctor to see if a prescription for zolpidem makes sense for you. It works for Steves.