How to Fight Jet Lag
On long trips, when you fly through multiple time zones jet lag can become an unpleasant problem. Jet lag symptoms (insomnia, fatigue, sleepiness, mild nausea) can spoil the first few days abroad if you do not try to reduce its impact on your body. Studies have found that it takes a full day to recover from each time zone you travel through.
On the Internet, you may find many tips on how to fight jet lag. Some of those recommendations do not work for many of my fellow travelers and for me. And some suggestions
While there is no one hundred percent cure, after many years of travel to 71 countries, I learned some tricks on how to fight jet lag.
I will try to describe my personal experiences of overcoming jet lag, and what tricks helped me.
Start changing your schedule in advance
I believe in this advice. It makes a lot of sense. A few days before the trip, start going to bed and get up one hour earlier than you usually do. Or, depending on the direction of your itinerary, go to bed and get up one hour later. Then increase to two hours, or even to three hours.
I tried to do it many times, but unfortunately, it never worked for me. I have a rigid schedule of going to bed at 10:00 pm and getting up at 5:30 am. As many times as I tried, I could change my schedule only by 1 hour.
Try to leave home well rested and relaxed
I try to follow this advice, but in real life, it is not easy to follow. I am a very organized person, but there are so many things to take care of before a long trip, that it always seems to me that I forgot to do something.
As a result, the night before the flight, I either do not sleep or sleep poorly. If the flight is in the evening, I try to do so many things before leaving for the airport, that I board the plane with my head full of worries. It takes me some time to realize that I have already started my trip.
Reset your watch
While waiting for the flight at the airport, or as soon as I board the plane, I change the time on my watch to the time zone I am traveling to. From that moment on, I begin to live psychologically in a new time.
Drink water on the airplane
I drink lots of water on the plane. But I prefer not to drink water offered by the flight attendants. I heard that one in every eight planes fails the agency’s standards for water safety.
Maybe I exaggerate and water on the planes is safe, but I still prefer to have empty water bottles in my backpack. I refill them from a water fountain after I get through security.
Do not drink alcohol or coffee
during your flight
I believe it is good advice not to drink alcohol and coffee on the aircraft. Sometimes, though, it is not easy to decline the free cognac or wine to celebrate the beginning of an exciting journey.
Get some sleep on the plane
Many flights from the US to Europe are scheduled in the evening. As soon as I finish dinner, I try to fall asleep. Unfortunately, I always have trouble falling asleep on buses, trains, or planes. Probably, if I would fly in the first or business class, I would have no problem sleeping. But since I fly only in the economy section (like most travelers do), I have little personal space and can only snooze for a few minutes.
Even if I use a neck pillow, ear plugs, and eye mask, I still cannot have a real sleep. I envy the passengers around me; many of them look like they are sleeping. Sometimes, I take Tylenol PM. It does not help me to sleep on the plane, but it makes me feel more relaxed.
You got off the plane in another country. It’s morning. You should be happy that your long-planned dream journey begins. But your body is tired; your eyelids are sticking together from a sleepless night. And a cozy bed in your hotel is many hours away.
Your body is begging for sleep but be firm. Try to spend more time outside. The daylight (even if it is not sunny) will help to reset your body clock. Walk, breathe in the fresh air, look at the sky. Stay awake until bedtime. If it’s hard to stay awake, find some quiet place and have a catnap. A short nap on the bench or bus seat can refresh you for a few hours.
Should you use sleeping aids?
I always sleep very well on the first night. It is the second and third nights that give me a problem. I take Tylenol PM before the second and third nights. Usually, but not always, I am more or less adjusted to the new time after that.
Recently, someone advised me to use Jet Lag Prevention pills from Whole Foods. It is homeopathic, and you have to take it every two hours. I used it for the last two years, and I think it helps.
I have read Rick Steves’ advice to use sleep aid Ambien (generic name zolpidem). However, he wrote that it could have side effects. Many people swear by Melatonin. For some reason, it does not work for me. I think that each traveler has to find his or her “miracle pill.”
After first night
It does not matter how jet-lagged I am, I like to get up at my regular time – 5:30 or 6:00 am regardless of where I am on the globe. I use my travel alarm clock, and I also ask for a wake-up call from the hotel. This way I am always first at breakfast. Breakfast is my favorite meal, and the hotels we are staying at have a fantastic spread at every destination.
I love talking to people, but not during breakfast. It is my waking-up time, and I am not talkative early in the morning. Getting up at an early hour gives me lots of free time after breakfast. I can go for a walk, take a shower or exercise at the hotel gym. If it is not too hot outside, I prefer an early morning walk.
After the first night at the new place, people in my group look tired and ask each other: how did you sleep this night? Often, the answer is: I fell asleep at 4 pm, slept until 1
On the first day after arrival, the jet lag is the worst. On the bus, most of my fellow travelers doze off. Indeed, it is so difficult to stay awake when your body wants to curl up and sleep, and sleep, and sleep.
Several years ago, we took a boat trip on the Seine River in Paris. There was a large group of Japanese tourists on our boat. While we were gliding past the Eiffel Tower and other legendary Parisian sights, the Japanese, all of them, were sound asleep.
It was clear that they arrived in France on the same day or the day before. It’s a pity we did not take pictures of these jet-lagged travelers.
How to stay awake in the evening
Finally, it’s evening. I try not to stay in the room and read. This can make me sleepy at a very early time. I avoid going to bed early. Otherwise, I will be awake at 2 am. The evening is the best time to be in the lobby of the hotel socializing with people from my group.
All travelers experience some inconveniences during international trips. One of them is a jet lag. However, we quickly forget all the difficulties and problems and remember the unique experience that each trip gives us.