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Travel Tip : Beating Jet Lag

GeneralEdward Kiledjian6 Comments
Image by  Frank O'Dwyer  used under Creative Commons License

Image by Frank O'Dwyer used under Creative Commons License

Every trip you take makes the next one a little easier. You learn how to do things better, faster and more efficiently (packing, booking, getting through customs, etc). The one challenge that never gets easier is Jet Lag. 

Jet Lag is the impact of switching multiple time zones in a very short period of time. Your body thinks its time to sleep but your new time zone says its only lunch time. Jet Lag typically gets worse the more time zones you fly through.

Over the years I have picked up little tips and tricks that help me deal with the Jet Lag better which means my first day on the ground isn't lost to groggy tired Edward. To be clear, I haven't found a magic elixir that completely negates Jet Lag but you can minimize its impact.

1 - Rest and be extra healthy - Many people go in a crazy hectic panic mode a day before their flight (packing, chores, planning, etc). The longer the flight, the earlier I try to finish all my pre-flight prep. I typically want to keep the last 48-72 hours before a flight as personal rest and relaxation time. This means all my planning, packing, and travel related activities are all completed at least 48 hours before my flight day. I spend the next 2-3 pre-flight days resting as much as I can and being extra healthy. Resting means sleeping early, doing exercise and meditating. Being healthy means I go out of my way to make sure I take extra special care of myself. I drink extra water. I make sure my skin is extra hydrated (planes are very dry). I eat super healthy by drinking lots of green juices, avoid overly fatty, starchy or carbohydrate laden foods. I make sure I take all my vitamins and typically start my probiotic regimen (which I do until a week after I return). All of this is done to ensure you body is in peak shape to handle the stresses of travelling which minimizes Jet Lag and risk you'll get a travel cold.

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2 - Use your travel time to rest -  I know the in-flight entertainment system and the fact you're trapped in a flying tube for hours on end seems like an invitation to binge watch TV but don't. There is nothing wrong with watching "some" entertainment while you eat but consider travel time as a rare gift where you are completely isolated from the world. Read a book, listen to an audiobook or sleep. 

3 - Switch Time Zones - Whenever possible, and especially if I am flying to Asia where the time difference can be as much as 12 hours, I try to start living in that time zone a day or 2 before the flight. I then continue with my destination schedule on the flight. Most flight attendants will gladly hold a meal for you and serve it later when it is more convenient if you ask nicely. 

4 - Live like the locals - A long trip and the extra dry airplane take a toll on your body and often times you want nothing more than to fall asleep as soon as you check-in to the hotel... BUT DON'T! If you have a free day, get outside and walk around. Fresh air, light exercise and sunlight all help to fight Jet Lag. Live according to the destination time zone regardless of how tired you think you are. Plus you gain a day of sightseeing.

5 - Early wakeup - Even with everything I have mentioned above, you will likely wake up early (compared to the local timezone) as your body transitions to its new schedule. Instead of mopping in bed, get up, have a healthy breakfast and use this time to get fresh air, light exercise and sunlight. Foreign cities are wonderful in the morning as the city wakes up.  

6 - Jet Lag remedies - Some travellers recommend pharmaceutical sleep aids (like Ambien) to help get a full nights sleep immediately using the local schedule. I tend to shy away from taking prescription meds anytime I can.  I have used a combination of over the counter melatonin and a homeopathic product called No JetLag which seems to have worked for me. The melatonin is a hormone that purported to help reset your biological clock. Make sure you check the regulations of your destination country. Some over the counter products are classified as illegal in some european or asian countries so check first.

There is no magic cure for Jet Lag. Over the years I have used the above tips to deal with it better and have found them efficient. Happy travels.