spa pool surrounded by lounge beds at Bulgari Hotel London

Jet lag. The feeling is familiar — you fly across the country, the Atlantic (or Pacific), and land — wanting to conquer your vacation with gusto. Instead, you end up sidelined with sleepless nights or relying on endless espressos. There are many solution-promising tinctures, over-the-counter remedies, and tricks people swear by that might work, but nothing universal. In search of a better answer and after fielding requests from exhausted guests, a growing number of hotel spas are offering treatments specifically designed to combat jet lag and quickly reset our circadian rhythm, which is set off-kilter when traversing time zones. 

“Many of our clients take international flights on a weekly basis and it is a priority for them to recover in the fastest and most natural way possible,” says Ivana Lanzara, spa director at Portrait Milano’s The Longevity Spa. The treatments can range from sophisticated cryotherapy suites to more rudimentary aromatherapeutic massages. But do they work? I had the opportunity to experience a few, talk to experts, and in my research (and to my relief) enjoyed a lot less 3:30 am tossing and turning. 

Massage Journeys  

spa room with two beds and two chairs at Bulgari Hotel in London
Courtesy of Bulgari Hotels

One of the more lo-fi and reliant on ancient methodology treatments comes at Bulgari Hotel London, where the property has partnered with wellness expert Peigin Crowley, founder of GROUND, to develop “massage journeys.” One such journey is tailored specifically to sleep and combating jet lag. 

“For someone experiencing [jet lag], the body is often in a fight or flight mode,” says Crowley. “The circadian rhythm has been impacted, there’s potential puffiness in the legs, feet, or face, and bloating or upset tummy, maybe even headaches. Moving the body out of this mode and into a restorative state allows the body to acclimatize. After the treatment, the mind and body should feel reconnected and rejuvenated.”

After a particularly hectic travel schedule, I arrived at Bulgari London in deep need of restoration. Never have I felt so nurtured. I met with my massage therapist for a consultation and, together, decided on the SLEEP treatment. We chose a calming, custom scent with jasmine and rosemary, complemented by a sweeping, soothing massage technique. The treatment started with breathwork and a guided meditation and by the end of the 90 minutes, I was asleep on the table; my tense muscles had entirely loosened. I slept a full eight hours that night. 

High-Tech NAD+

spa pool with showers at maison hudson in new york city
Image by Kira Turnbull

On the more high-tech side of the spectrum is NAD+ therapy which promises jet lag relief. I experienced the increasingly popular treatment at both New York’s Maison Hudson Intuisse Spa and Four Seasons Resort Maui at Wailea. Coupled with an extra package of nutrients — vitamin B, methionine, adenosyl, and glutathione — NAD+ helps regulate circadian rhythm and reset the body’s natural processes. I was told I might feel some adverse effects like fatigue or soreness following it, but fortunately, I did not. Instead, I woke up feeling refreshed and with an unbelievable amount of energy; I effortlessly ran six miles. At Maison Hudson, the treatment can be administered in combination with another (like a facial or pedicure), while at Four Seasons Maui guests sit in an open-air room, looking out onto Wailea Bay. 

Float Therapy

two people floating in the Blue Lagoon in Iceland
Courtesy of Blue Lagoon Iceland

Aromatherapy, massage, and meditation don’t require sophisticated technology and neither does float therapy which I experienced at The Retreat Hotel at Blue Lagoon in Iceland. 

“Floating has been shown to be beneficial in helping with jet lag for its relaxation, hydration, and muscle fatigue-relieving properties,” says Chad Keilin, spa director at The Retreat. 

During the 45-minute session (performed outdoors), my therapist gently pulled me through the geothermal seawater. The high mineral content gives extra buoyancy to the body, emphasizing the “float” feeling. The treatment requires that a special cap be worn, along with floatation devices (around arms and legs). It took me at least ten minutes to give in to the strange weightless feeling, but ultimately I did, and it was soothing — and what I imagine a womb-like feeling to be. My shoulders dropped, my headache abated, and I slept like a baby. 

Blessing Ritual

long spa pool at portrait milano in milan italy
Courtesy of Portrait Milano

Seeing merit in both the latest technology and more ancient methods, The Longevity Spa at Portrait Milano combines the two, creating an extensive and comprehensive treatment.

“Jet leg treatments are in high demand, especially those using the combination of biohacking technologies,” says Portrait Milano’s Lanzara. “We developed The Jet Lag Blessing Ritual, a combination of ultra high-tech and more rudimentary techniques, to de-stress and alleviate sleep disturbances.”

The Ritual involves cryotherapy, sensory deprivation, LED light, aromatherapy, and massage that work to stimulate serotonin and melatonin production in the body and allow you to relax from the fight-or-flight mode. Steps include both sub-zero cryo chamber freezing temperatures and a tanning bed-like device. Within hours I felt my body had been reset. My sluggish digestion returned to normal (after not being hungry for days, I was starving), and I had one of the deepest sleeps of my life. I couldn’t believe the efficacy. It was a near-instantaneous cure.

Featured image courtesy of Bulgari Hotels

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