Whether we travel for business or pleasure, learning how to avoid jet lag can greatly add to our effectiveness and enjoyment. Some advice I received when I first started traveling was really amusing. It was to take one day off for every time zone you traveled before doing any serious work or touring As if! I am sure it works, but who has the extra weeks or time it would take?
Other advice regarding how to avoid jet lag involves rearranging your eating and sleeping patterns days or weeks before you travel, following more than a dozen different suggestions and/or using drugs or supplements. These two easy tips for how to avoid jet lag on the plane and upon arrival will keep you fully functioning and enjoying yourself wherever your travels may take you.
1. On the Plane
Put your watch and your mind on arrival time. As soon as your plane takes off, reset your watch and any devices that won’t reset themselves to the time and day of your destination. Ask the cabin crew if you are not sure what that is, then act accordingly.
In general, it works to treat going east as a short night whether you are going from Asia to America, America to Europe or Europe to Asia. Consider whatever meal they give you after you board the plane your evening meal, even if it is still lunch time. Try to sleep or rest as much as possible, or relax with a book or mellow movies. Being active in the airport before you board will help you endure all the sitting. Don’t overdo the caffeine or the alcohol, but a drink with ‘dinner’ and coffee before you land in the morning will put you on arrival time.
Going west is a long afternoon. Call your first meal lunch and the last dinner. Stay awake as much as possible and consider any dozing an afternoon nap. This is a good flight on which to work, chat or play games. Coffee at the start of the flight and a drink before landing works. But be moderate. A hangover can easily push jet lag into the next week.
2. On Arrival
This is the hardest part of how to avoid jet lag, but is absolutely crucial. No matter how tired you feel, do not lie down while the sun is up. If you are really too tired to do anything, relax in a chair and don’t worry if you drop off for a bit. Because you are sitting up, you will not sleep too deeply, or too long. Do not be like a fellow traveler I knew who hit the hotel bed ‘for just five minutes’ at noon then fell asleep so soundly that phone calls and pounding on the door could not waken her. She missed the afternoon activity and was thoroughly jet lagged the rest of the trip.
Wait until the sun sets before you lie down or go to bed. This is easier in winter or in countries closer to the equator when days are shorter.
If lying down in daylight is a ‘don’t,’ getting outdoors is definitely a ‘do.’ Exercise and being in daylight really help you acclimate to local time, so go outside, but be careful if you are feeling tired and uncoordinated. Move slowly. If you are walking, amble or saunter rather than hike. If you are a runner, make it an easy jog.
In all cases, be very careful crossing streets, especially if the traffic drives on the ‘wrong’ side of the road. Not up to moving much? Sit in a park or on a balcony (weather permitting) and let your body learn that it is now daytime. Once the sun sets, you can go to bed for some real sleep.
Finally, remember to do all this again on the way home. Otherwise, you will need two weeks to recover from your vacation or business trip. Be especially careful if, where you were, the cars drove on a different side of the road. Once we are at home, we relax, but some part of our mind might still have us looking in the wrong direction when we drive or cross streets.