10 Tips to Combat Jet Lag

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Jet Lag

Don’t do the math. I just woke up in my hotel room in London when the alarm went off at 8:00 AM after flying in last night. My watch says it is 8:00 AM and my body needs to get used to the idea. Whatever I do, don’t do the math and figure out that it is… ugh… midnight in California. If you have traveled internationally then you have had to deal with those days where you head is in one time zone and your body is in another. Here are some tips for combating jet lag.

  1. Decaffeinate – Especially if you are flying somewhere like Europe on a night flight, I recommend not trying to have your last Starbucks in the airport and then trying to sleep on the plane. Friday we took a night flight from San Francisco to JFK and then on to London. Knowing that I would want to sleep on the plane I had my last caffeine (Diet Coke being my delivery mechanism of choice) in the morning so that I would be tired by the time of my 10 PM flight. It does help if you like me are often one Dient Coke away from unconsciousness.
  2. Set You Watch – As soon as you get on a plane set your watch to the time in your destination. Your goal is now to adjust your body until it matches your watch.
  3. Eye Shade – You will often need to sleep to adjust your schedule and it might be daylight outside. If it is daylight then you will want to have an eye shade to make it easier to sleep. You can wrap a towel around your head as one Australian did on our flight to London… but then you look particularly silly.
  4. Noise Canceling Headphones – I have bought myself two sets of noise canceling headphones to drown out the background noise of the airplane. I most recently bought a pair from Sony. Bose has a particularly well regarded pairs as well. My head phones work so well that other immediate family members have stolen them from me.
  5. Ear Plugs – A less expensive option than noise canceling headphones is cheap foam ear plugs (which people are much less likely to take from you in my experience). I carry a bag of them as I lose on average one per flight.
  6. Drugs – Many people recommend chemical solutions from a glass of wine to prescription drugs to induce drowsiness. I have had mixed success with this kind of approach. Two Summers ago I went to Tanzania which involved two night flights in a row. I had thrown out my back just before and brought Flexidril which is a muscle relaxant to knock me out. I combined that with a glass of red wine (which I later learned was against the instructions on the label) which turns out to be a bad idea. I woke up on the flight nauseated and faint because I think my blood pressure had been dangerously lowered. Since then I generally avoid more than a glass of wine.
  7. Nap – When you arrive at your destination take a nap if necessary but if you do, decide of how much sleep you will allow yourself and set an alarm.
  8. Shower– A refreshing shower can sometimes keep me awake for another hour or so and feels good after a long plane flight.
  9. Stay Up – If at all possible try and stay up to your normal bed time. You will adjust quicker if you can.
  10. Relax – You might not make it up to your normal bed time or you might not be able to get to sleep at that time. Cut yourself some slack. You may just need to decide that in this time zone your bed time is 2 hours sooner or 2 hours later. For some reason, in Africa I could not sleep past 5 AM. That just gave me more time to work on my blog.
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by Chris Christensen

I am the host of the Amateur Traveler. The Amateur Traveler is an online travel show that focuses primarily on travel destinations and what are the best places to travel to. It includes both a weekly audio podcast, a video podcast, and a blog.

3 Responses to “10 Tips to Combat Jet Lag”

Charles Rahm (@DWJustTravel)

Says:

Thank you for sharing these tips. I always do number 2. and set my watch for the destination as soon as I board the plane. As for alcohol I tend to stick to a small bottle of wine ( 2 glasses) with the main meal.
http://www.dontworryjusttravel.com/

Marc

Says:

Thanks for the tips. I use most of these tips to combat my jet lags while traveling overseas all the time. It seems like the longer the flight, less jet lag I have. any ideas?

chris2x

Says:

For me it depends a bit on when the flight takes off and lands too. I prefer a flight that lands in the evening because I will arrive tired, go to sleep and wake up adjusted.

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