How to Fight Jet Lag

By | March 9, 2018

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 do help.

I will try to describe my personal experiences of overcoming jet lag, and what tricks helped me.

Flying through time zones

Start changing your schedule in advance

I believe in this advice. It makes a lot of sense. The idea is a few days before the trip, you start going to bed an hour earlier and get up an hour earlier (or later, depending on the direction of your itinerary, east or west); then switch to two hours; then, if you can, 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 110:00 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 my best 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, then all that day I try to do so many things 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 and my cell phone 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 on the plane

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 a journey.

Get some sleep on the plane

Neck pillow helps to get better sleep on the plane.

Try to get some sleep on the plane

Many flights from the US to Europe are scheduled in the evening. As soon as I finish the 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 arrived!

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 the 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 during the first night. It is the second and the 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.

Sometimes sleeping pills help with jet lag.

Finally, a real bed!

Recently, someone advised me to use Jet Lag Prevention pills from the 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 wake-up time, and I am not talkative early in the morning. Getting up at early hour gives me lots of free time after the 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.

On the first day after arrival, the jet lag is the worst.

Your body is begging for sleep

The next morning 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 am and stayed awake since. Or: I woke up at 3 am, and after that could not fall asleep.

On the first day after arrival, the jet lag is the worst. On the bus, most my fellow travelers doze off. Indeed, it is so difficult it to stay awake when your body wants to curl up and sleep, and sleep, and sleep.

I remember how once we took a boat trip on the Seine River in Paris. There was a large group of Japanese tourists on our boat. Looking at them was funny. 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 stay in the room and read. This can make me sleepy at the 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.

After I come back from my trip, I quickly forget the inconveniences related to jet lag. While there is no 100{5ac18ef5c0a0a5bf7fd9603d93dd6afaaafb39abafb8ad2978dc6b95097c5ef0} cure, after many years of travel to 68 countries, I finally learned how to fight jet lag.

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