No matter if you have ventured one time zone or six, jet lag is tough on all of us, but thinking of what time it is at home will only screw you up. Forget that time in your head completely. Get ready to channel your inner Elsa because you need to repeat after me – “the past is in the past. LET IT GO!”
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Don't Let Jet Lag Defeat You
Babies and toddlers seem to bounce back the best because they have the luxury of napping whenever, wherever, and using “the sun is up!” as their guide on whether it is appropriate to be awake or not.
As for the rest of us peons, we are cuckolded by the constraints of adulthood, bound by the need for sleep exceeding five hours, and for horizontal alignment of the joints every so often.
Yes, we need sleep. But is it wise to give in to the sweet slumber right away? Always Pack Tissues explains the best ways to beat jet lag.
Your "How to Beat Jet Lag" Mantra:
Think on “destination time”
This simple trick is the key to everything. It's the only thing you need to remember. It's not 2AM at home, it's 8AM where I'm going! That kind of mind set is going to help you tremendously.
Let's dive deeper.
Put “body time” out of your head
The second you book a flight going east, to Europe let’s say, you need to prepare your mind for the time shift.
Most Europe-bound flights leave the US in the evening, arriving first thing in the morning at your destination. Your best bet: hit the hay the second you board. Depending on your flight duration, this hour of boarding time may offer essential added snoozing to your journey. Put on an eye mask, forget the in flight meal, and GO TO SLEEP.
Pro tip: do NOT take any drowsy meds or Zzquil until your butt is on the airplane. Too many times I have seen delays or cancellations and you don’t want to be completely zonked out before you even get on board.
Start thinking of your ‘destination time’ immediately
For instance, if the in flight meal comes at 9pm – would you really be eating dinner at 3AM in Germany? No, probably not. Skip it. Start getting your body adjusted to the meal schedule.
Waking up at 7AM to the tune of carts clanging and coffee pouring? Take the coffee, take the crappy egg sandwich. These will revive you and get you adjusted to ‘destination time’.
Remember, it’s not 1AM body time, it’s breakfast time.
The more you tune your brain to this thought, the easier it will be.
Pro tip: Bring an orange onboard the plane. You have to eat it before customs, but the scent and juicy taste of this succulent citrus will be the best thing you could ever do for yourself after a long dehydrating flight. You can thank me later.
Upon Arrival to Your Destination
Once you arrive on the first day do your best not to take a nap. If you have to, set your alarm for 20 or 30 minutes max. Take a shower. Go for a walk. Keep moving. Try to make it to 8pm. You will sleep poorly the first few nights and your body may even react in weird ways like getting a cold or a flu. Just power through the best you can and treat your body well.
If at this point you are cursing the world, just go and read my editorial on the reality of travel. It will make you feel better. You're not alone. Jet lag sucks but you can get through it!
Maybe you are going three hours west from the east coast to the west coast, or maybe you are going to Asia. In either case, you’ll experience time in opposite effect.
So as an example if you wake up at 8am regularly, don’t be surprised if you are awake at 5am in California. Counter this by pushing yourself to go to sleep later than normal.
If you’re headed to Asia you’re dealing with 14 hours time difference in some cases. Honestly there’s no figuring this one out. Just do your best to stay alive and alert and after a day or two you’ll start slowly changing your body time to destination time.
The best advice for that type of travel is to split it up, if time permits. Taking a long layover to break up the trip allows you some time to rest and recuperate before getting on your next leg of the journey.
The secret that has helped me is to take a bunch of "micro-naps", 5-20 minutes each, just to keep you going. Put on a garbage movie and just zonk in and out of it. Get up regularly to stretch your legs and drink lots of water.
Some Generally Good Tips For Traveling in Either Direction
If you should be sleeping in "destination time", sleep.
If you should be eating in "destination time", eat.
If you want to sleep, take what you can get on the airplane.
If you don't want to sleep, sleep anyway....IF destination time warrants it :-)
Drink water - bring your own bottle and fill it up before you board
Don't drink too much (or any) alcohol before/during your flight. It may keep you awake and dehydrate you further.
DO eat soups and brothy meals (pro tip: bring a cup of noodles on board and ask the flight attendant to add hot water for you!). Bring your own disposable spoon.
DON'T eat a massive burrito or Indian food before boarding. Indigestion will keep you awake and you will get unsettling looks from your neighbors when you let a few stinkers rip, so just...don't. Please!
Overall, jet lag should be called some other beastly name because it’s never easy and it’s never fun. Expect to lose days to this treacherous foe, and drink lots of water. Water is your friend! LOTS OF WATER is the key! Especially if you are going somewhere with high altitude. Just take it easy on yourself the first day or two. Don't go on a bender, yea?