Jet Lag: 7 Tips to Help You Kick Its Ass
“Is jet lag a real thing?” he asked as my head bobbed in front of my computer screen. Day three after returning from my trip to Asia and I was exhausted. If you’ve never experienced it, let me tell you, jet lag is indeed a very real thing. Crossing more than two time zones usually comes with the added bonuses of fatigue, disrupted sleep patterns, irritability, loss of appetite, trouble concentrating and more.
I’ve dealt with jet lag before in varying degrees but never as severe as when I came home from Japan this fall. Thirteen time zones baby, since Tokyo is 12.5 hours ahead of St. John’s. I saw the sun set on October 13th twice and by the time I landed home I didn’t know if I was coming or going. Despite my best efforts, I was off for a full week. In just over two weeks I’m going to be travelling back to Korea and most likely facing another fight with jet lag. This time I’m going to arm myself for battle and I intend to be victorious. Here’s my battle plan:
Shift My Schedule Before I Leave
This weekend I’m going to start shifting towards Korea’s time zone. I’ll go to bed and get up a half hour earlier each day until I leave. If you try this don’t shift your schedule by more than an hour each day. I can only move my schedule so much because of my work schedule but this should help get me halfway to the right timezone.
Change My Clock
Once I get on my first flight, I’ll change my clock and start operating on Korean time. This may not work perfectly since airplane meals and lighting/dimming seem to be set based on your departure’s time zone. For example, on my flight back from Tokyo they served us breakfast just before we landed…at 5 pm local time.
Know Light from Dark
Light will be the biggest factor in resetting my sleep patterns. As best I can, I’m going to expose myself to bright light during Seoul’s day time and darkness during their night to restart my clock . If you’re especially affected by light you may want to consider getting a travel therapy lamp like this portable one. If you’re on really long flights getting darkness is easy with an eye mask or dark sunglasses but if the flight has the lights dimmed you don’t really want to disturb your neighbour by turning on a light so you may have to wait to put this tip into full effect.
Go High Tech
In this day and age of smart phones you’d think there has to be an app for that…and you’re be right. I’m going to let someone else figure out my strategy by trying Jet Lag App. It’s $2.99 and available for iPhone. You choose whether you’re going on a short trip or long trip (based on days and number of time zones crossed), enter your flight information and it calculates when you should sleep, when you should wake, when to seek light and when to hide in darkness.
I may give melatonin a try – a hormone that triggers your brain to start slowing down to sleep. Keep doses low (under 5mg) to start and take it two days before your trip and up to two or three days upon arrival. It’s not recommended for long term use. Melatonin is more useful when you’re travelling from west to east and need to sleep earlier than your body wants to so I’m not sure if it’ll help me this time but I’ll give it a shot (I checked and got clearance from my doctor first).
Avoid Alcohol and Caffeine
This may be the hardest bit of advice to follow but both will affect sleep quality and make jet lag symptoms worse. I’ll avoid both while flying since they can make dehydration worse and intensify the nastiness. Caffeine can stay in your system for awhile so best to avoid caffeine at least five hours before you plan to sleep once you land. If you need a boost when you wake up or to push through the afternoon, by all means indulge.
Argonne Anti-Jet Lag Diet
This one sounds the kookiest me but it might be worth a try. The Argonne Anti-Jet Lag Diet was developed at the the U.S. Department of Energy’s Argonne National Laboratory and uses a feast and fast cycle to help trigger your body into awake and sleep cycles. You start four days before your trip with a feast day, eating high protein meals for breakfast and lunch to tell your body to be alert and active and you eat a high carb supper to tell it to slow down and get ready for bed. On fast days you eat light meals. I’ll start my trip with a light supper and then pack foods for a protein rich breakfast and lunch and be on the hunt for carbs when I land.
Even by following these seven tips I expect that I’ll still end up feeling some jet lag but if I can cut down my recovery time I’ll consider that a win. Do you have any tips for battling the jet lag demon?