I just returned from a trip to Singapore where the time zone is 14 hours different than mine. Which means night and day are switched. I was immediately busy leading a 5-day workshop, so I had no time for jet lag. I’ve tried many methods, schedules, and even a few apps to beat jet lag. I’ve settled on the most productive ways to quickly overcome it.
What is jet lag? As we travel rapidly – by jet – over many time zones our body’s internal clock remains set on our previous time zone. Your body has a rhythm, and that rhythm gets out of whack when we suddenly land in new time zone.
We often relate jet lag to sleep, but it also affects our eating and our, well, plumbing. No one wants to be groggy, lethargic, or constipated when traveling. The faster you reset your body clock to the new local time zone, the better you’ll feel.
Beating jet lag is the key to being productive on a business trip or relaxing on vacation. Here is how I do it.
How to Beat Jet Lag
- Begin fresh. Start your trip rested and refreshed. Staying up until midnight packing before a 7 am flight isn’t doing yourself any favors. Begin packing two days before. Finish packing and have all your bags ready early. Get to bed on time. You don’t want to begin your trip on a sleep deficit.
- Hydrate. Drink way more water than you think you need to on the airplane. The air on airplanes is so dry that it quickly causes dehydration. Avoid alcohol. Contrary to popular believe, alcohol actually disrupts sleep, rather than aids it. It also dehydrates you. It’s dehydration that causes headaches and fatigue. A lot of water in your body helps your body to recover and stay good. This is my #1, don’t miss, gotta do it, tip.
- Sleep on the airplane. Bring an eye mask and earplugs to block out the light and sound. Even if you normally don’t sleep sitting up, you’ll find that you get a few hours sleep on the airplane. I’ve never been one to take sleeping pills, but others find that it helps them get a few hours sleep on a long transpacific flight. A nonprescription alternative is Melatonin, which is a hormone sold as a supplement that works for some people. Always consult a doctor before taking this or other medicine.
- Think in local time. As soon as you get on the airplane reset your watch to the local time where you are going. Begin to think in that time zone. Regulate your sleep and meals on the airplane to match that time zone, if possible. Avoid thinking, “My body thinks it’s 2 am.” Go to bed near your normal time. And stay in bed until your normal time. Getting your body clock on local time is one of the keys to overcoming jet lag more quickly.
- Stay busy. Once you arrive, have a schedule of things to do to keep you reasonably busy. If you find yourself sitting for a long period, you will be tempted to nod off. Pacing is the key.
- Eat fresh. Eating heavy greasy high carbohydrate meals is a sure way to make you feel lethargic and sleepy. Eat fresh. Eat light. And always, eat local. Fresh fruit and vegetables along with coffee in the morning will help you avoid constipation that sometimes accompanies jet lag. Overeating and snacking can cause sleepiness. And sugar results in a sugar high the drops off after an hour or so sending you looking for your bed.
- Exercise. Take on jet lag by exercising and moving your body. Take a 20-minute walk the morning or in the evening or both. Do a few push-ups, planks, jumping jacks and deep knee-bends. Moving will get your blood flowing and tell your body, “it’s time to be awake!” The added bonus is exposure to sunlight which adjust your body rhythms.
For me, the worst day is the third day. I often wake up with a headache and feel more dull then on previous other days. Unless I’m actually feeling sick, I take a couple of aspirin and push through with the list above. I think of it as jet lag’s last attack. Usually by that evening I’ve beat it.
And then it’s time to return home and battle jet lag again!