We Tried This Unique Method To Fight Jet Lag And It Left Us Feeling Fresh

Despite all of the perks that come with traveling, from experiencing new cultures to the simplicity of having another stamp in your passport, there's one real bummer about coming back home after a long international trip: jet lag. I recently traveled for two months, beginning my journey in Italy, making my way over to Georgia and Armenia, and finally, heading down to South Africa to road trip up to Zambia. Safe to say, I was bouncing all over, spanning various timezones and often waking up confused as to where in the world I was.

My flight home was what some might describe as a nightmare. I took a two-hour flight from Victoria Falls, Zimbabwe, to Johannesburg, South Africa, where I had a five-hour layover. From Johannesburg, I jumped on an eight-hour flight to Doha, Qatar, via Qatar Airways (which, side note, is one of the most luxurious airlines), had another two-hour layover in Doha, and finally, I boarded a flight just shy of 15 hours from Doha to JFK airport in New York City.

Knowing I had such strenuous travel prior to landing back in New York, where I'd land in the middle of the afternoon, I treated myself to a staycation at the fairly new Virgin Hotels New York on Broadway and 30th Street in Manhattan. I made a spa appointment for the morning after my return in an attempt to reset, where I put the theory to the test that aromatherapy really can help fight jet lag.

Aromatherapy used at Exhale Spa NYC

Aromatherapy is a form of holistic therapy and alternative medicine. The belief is that breathing in essential oils and applying them to your skin can relieve stress, boost moods, and improve sleep. Aromatherapy has been alleged to cure seasickness, but can it cure jet lag, too? I put it to the test after my 30-hour flight while at Exhale Spa NYC, located within the Virgin Hotels New York.

At Exhale Spa NYC, I opted for a full body massage, which the spa calls "the flow." The procedure guarantees to "[knead open] locked muscles, free energy blockages, and relieve tension [all via] incorporating more lymphatic drainage." It's meant to detoxify, which is enhanced by the guest's choice of essential oils: "detox" made with charcoal and citrus, "revive" made with lavender and sunflower, or "restore" made with lavender and sandalwood. Desperately needing a detox due to feeling generally gross from so many hours on a plane (paired with a few glasses of vino to kill the time while on hour 20 or so of traveling), I opted for detox.

As a spa girly through and through, aromatherapy aside, my experience at Exhale Spa NYC resulted in one of the best massages I've ever had. The masseuse listened to my needs, applied a substantial amount of pressure, and I when I left, I felt like liquid, as opposed to the tense mess I was when I walked in. But ... did the aromatherapy used help fight my jet lag?

Jet lag cured: A perfect storm

I can't be sure that aromatherapy is solely what helped me bounce back as quickly as I did. The typical recovery calculation is about one day per timezone passed. Since Zambia, the final destination on my trip, is six hours ahead of New York, that would mean, by those merits, I needed a full six days to recover. If that is the case, then perhaps the aromatherapy does work. I landed back in NYC on Saturday afternoon, and by Tuesday, I was just about entirely back to my regular sleep schedule, with the exception of still waking up a little bit earlier than usual (at 6 a.m. as opposed to 7 a.m.). However, this could also be attributed to waking up extremely early on the trip for early-morning game drives.

So, what was the key to overcoming my jet lag so quickly? Was it the aromatherapy, forcing myself to stay awake for the duration of the last flight, the extremely comfortable bed and the 14 hours of sleep at Virgin Hotels New York, or perhaps the massage itself? My guess is it was a little bit of everything — a perfect storm, if you will. And while I can't say for certain that aromatherapy would work on its own, the detox aromatherapy I used at Exhale Spa NYC definitely added to my recovery process. Sure, there are simpler tricks for beating jet lag, but to me, aromatherapy paired with a top-notch massage was a much more fun way to come home.