I would love to give this post the title ‘the best way to cure jet lag’ but to be honest I have yet to find the magic formulae that works perfectly. If I was ever in doubt then my body clock reminded me of this fact when I awoke at 1am the last two nights, and thought it was time to go to breakfast. Therefore, in my desire to stay true and honest with you, I’m sharing the best information I have found on how to ‘reduce’ the nasty impact of jet lag.
Let’s begin by rebutting the idea that because you are travelling through various time zones you will have to suffer from jet lag, and that your first day will be ruined. Actually, it’s probably your second day that will be impacted the most… sorry if you thought that was going to be a better punch line. Expecting your body to eat breakfast when it wants dinner, or to fall asleep when you would normally be getting out of bed, is going to be a challenge.
But what can you do to minimize the negative impact of jetlag? Here are 3 rules to follow that I try and practice, and that do seem to work (most of the time).
You know what it’s like leading up to a trip; the to do list seems to grow everyday, and you find yourself running around like a headless chicken. Worse case you get ill (as I addressed in a previous post) but best case you will start your trip physically, and probably mentally, depleted. Not the healthiest way to begin. To alleviate this, try and leave those last 48 hours before you step on that flight, catch that train, or board that ship as clear as possible. Don’t schedule your time up to the last minute available, fool yourself, and others, into thinking you are leaving earlier so that those deadlines are not left to the last minute.
Tip: I love a checklist, and have a perfect one just for this issue. The satisfaction of ticking off all those lines, one by one, means I get on that flight knowing that I threw out the milk, stopped the newspaper delivery, and changed the timers on the security lights. If you also like checklists, then please sign up for my weekly newsletter to get free, and useful, printable’s. Look at sidebar for sign up box.
Having followed rule 1, you will step onto that flight relaxed and ready to enjoy your vacation (oh the power of positive thought). Now, ensure that you use your journey time wisely. Rest, nap if you are able to, and hydrate as much as possible – water not wine (if only I could take my own advise).
Reset your watch to the time at your destination as soon as you start your journey, and forget what time it is back home, worry about that on the return leg. If you keep reminding yourself that it is really 11pm and not 9am then no wonder your body is confused.
Tip: experts (i.e. the doctors) believe that you should start to put your body on the time zone for your destination a few days before departure, to kind of break it in gently. If you are flying east, then gradually move your bedtime earlier, and if flying west, then try and stay awake a little later each night leading up to your trip.
Typically on the first day of your trip your body’s adrenaline kicks in and you are so excited to be somewhere new that you can keep on going, like the energizer bunny in some cases. Having followed rule 2 above, then your watch is already telling your mind what time it is. Do not be tempted to take a nap, or go to bed early, as this will be counter productive when you awake at 1am raring to go. Personally, I find that if I take a little exercise then this re-energizes me, especially if I can combine the exercise with some fresh air.
Tip: I have found that over the counter melatonin tablets are my best friend when traveling. I will take one the first few nights of a trip as it does seem to help me to remain asleep once I nod off.
So much for the rules to follow, now what have the digital health market come up with to cure this phenomenon? How about a set of ear buds that beam a bright light through the ear canal onto the photosensitive region of the brain multiple times during a transatlantic flight? In trails, users of this HumanCharger device recovered from jet lag 50% quicker than those not using the device. Or on a similar vein, a Retimer that looks like a pair of glasses. Designed to be worn for 30 minutes for a few days before a trip, a green light emitted by the glasses is believed to reduce the symptoms of jet lag by adjusting your body to your destinations new time zone.
If you don’t like the sound of using a gadget then why not turn to your smart phone and utilize an app to combat jet lag. The Entrain app was developed by students at Michigan University and claims to help people adjust faster to new time zones by calculating the optimum time and way for travellers to expose themselves to light. The Jet Lag App (what an original name!) helps to combat jet lag by adjusting your sleeping patterns before you travel (clearly they believe in my rule 2 above). Any finally, for now anyway, how about the JetLagRooster app, currently free so maybe worth a try, that creates a personalized plan for the user to combat jet lag.
Jet lag can be a real pain (she says sleepily as she types this post) but out of every negative there is a positive, right! If I’m awake at 1am in Mumbai then that means my daughters are awake in the States and I can chat with them on Whatsapp. My nocturnal time is used for catching up on social media, finishing another book, or researching blog posts.
I wish you good luck with your travels and, as always, please let me know if you have any other ideas on the best ways to deal with jet lag (as I can read your replies when I’m awake at 1am).