“H ow come you do not suffer from jet lag?” was a question asked by reader caveman in response to a statement I posted in this article pertaining to Daylight Saving Time where I said “I do not suffer from jet lag; so changes in time zones — coupled with Daylight Saving Time — do not bother me.”
How I Avoid Jet Lag
Jet lag has the potential to ruin a trip — especially if you are tired and need sleep during an event you have wanted to attend. Extreme tiredness and other physical effects are felt by a person as the result of having traveled a long distance across several time zones; and those effects can cause the person to be irritable and feel drained.
Here are some tips and advice on how I avoid jet lag.
1. Adjust Yourself During Travel — Not When You Arrive
Jet lag is obviously most apparent when traveling to a destination far away; and this usually means long flights on airplanes — aboard which you can adjust yourself.
When I traveled to Sydney from the United States as a passenger in the business class cabin seated upstairs on a Boeing 747-400 aircraft operated by Qantas Airways, I may have napped for 30 minutes at the most during the flight which lasted for approximately 14 hours — and that is not counting no sleep on two previous flights. This is because the airplane was scheduled to land after 8:00 in the evening local time at the airport which serves the greater Sydney metropolitan area; and the short nap was enough to break the consecutive hours of staying awake while simultaneously reenergizing myself. I had a reservation for a room in a hotel property near the airport; so by the time I was processed through immigration at the airport, rented a car, drove to the hotel and checked in, I was tired and it was time to go to bed for the night anyway. My body had no problems adjusting to the local time for normal sleep patterns.
If a long trip is to conclude with a flight where the airplane lands in the morning, I attempt to get as much sleep as I can during the journey so that I may stay awake for the day when I reach my destination — and therefore go to sleep at the appropriate hour conforming to local time.
2. Food and Beverages
Even in the economy class cabin aboard an airplane, meals, snacks and beverages are available to passengers. Try to eat as much as you can until you are satisfied. Drink as much as possible to keep yourself hydrated — I typically drink water and orange juice by themselves; but I will consume an occasional cola or ginger ale during a meal.
Try not to either remain hungry or overeat — both of which can lead to discomfort not only while traveling; but also after arriving at your destination. If you have access to lounges at airports, do the same: eat and drink until you are satisfied.
3. Entertainment During Travel
Ensure that you have some forms of entertainment available to you while traveling in order to get your mind off of the time difference — whether the source of that entertainment is via an in-flight entertainment system aboard the airplane or a portable electronic device. I may occasionally watch a movie to become mindless for a couple of hours; but listening to music while traveling is what is most effective to me.
Note that for some people, being entertained will keep them awake; while for others, it helps them to fall asleep. I can fall in either camp; but more importantly, be aware of what watching entertainment can do for you — and use it to your fullest advantage.
I do not take any medications whatsoever; but when and how you take medications can affect your body clock. For example, if a medication causes you to become drowsy, try to take it before going to sleep if it is at all possible.
If you are seeking some form of medication or pharmaceutic drug to assist you with adjusting to jet lag, sorry — I do not believe in that and have no recommendations. I prefer to avoid jet lag as naturally as possible.
For the same reason, I also do not advise the use of alcoholic beverages to assist with conquering jet lag.
5. Acclimate to Local Time
Although I never changed the settings on any watch or portable electronic device which I bring with me when I travel, I acclimate to the local time. For example, if I arrive at lunch time and I am hungry, I will partake in lunch.
For me, simply looking at the local time on a clock is enough. The clock says 4:00 in the afternoon; so the time must be 4:00 in the afternoon. I never say to myself, “It is still 2:00 in the morning back home; so I must go to sleep because my body feels like it is the middle of the night.”
In fact, the opposite is true for me: I usually stay up until the wee hours of the morning on most days — it is not all that unusual for me to stay up until 6:00 in the morning and yet awaken sometimes at 9:00 in the morning — so adjusting to a different time zone is actually easier for me as a result.
For example: if I typically go to sleep at 5:00 in the morning at home but that same time at my destination is 10:00 in the evening, I can easily go to sleep there with no problem at all.
6. Leave Home Well Rested? Maybe — and Maybe Not…
Believe it or not, I never leave home well rested. In fact, there are times I am awake for 24 hours or more immediately prior to a long flight or long road trip — usually because I am packing my belongings at the last minute; as well as checking everything several times to ensure that I do not forget anything — but then, this helps me sleep better aboard the airplane where conditions in the economy class cabin are not exactly conducive to optimum comfort for sleeping.
I am not advocating that you should leave home without being well-rested prior to a long trip; but what works for me might work for you too, which is why I mentioned it here.
I wish I could give you a natural magical antidote for jet lag and its symptoms; but what I imparted to you in this article is what works best for me and is the closest natural solution…
…and the funny part is that I did not seek out solutions to jet lag — I just happened to figure out on my own and adapt to what I thought would work for me. As a result, I have not experienced jet lag in years — I cannot even recall the last time I experienced jet lag — despite having traveled all over the world through many different time zones.
I tend to listen to what my body is telling me, which may counter what I had advised earlier in this article; but I also combine that with using my mind to convince my body as to what is the correct time. This last sentence is rather difficult to explain because it seems counter-intuitive; but that combination has worked well for me for years.
Realizing not everything that works for me may work for you, I invite you to please add your input in the Comments section below on what specifically works for you to avoid experiencing jet lag.
Thank you in advance.
Photograph ©2006 by Brian Cohen.