How to Deal With Jet Lag – My Best Strategies

Wednesday Jul 1 | BY |
| Comments (10)

Airplane

The worst jet lag I’ve ever experienced was when I flew to Bali in 2005. It was my very first trip to Asia, and I flew directly from Montreal. It was a 30 hour trip including an overnight stay in Japan. The time difference was 12 hours.

Once I got there, I was extremely tired from the trip. I slept for 18 hours.

I didn’t manage to become functional until two or three days after my arrival. Just getting out of the hotel was incredibly difficult!

I was told that it takes about one day per hour of jet lag to adjust to the new time, once you’re past four or five hours of jet lag. With three hours of jet lag, you tend to adapt pretty quickly.

Jet lag is worse going east than going west. This is not a myth. The body simply adjusts better when time shifts westward.

Many strategies have been proposed for jet lag.

Honestly, I don’t think there is one cure-all. Let’s put things in perspective.

Traveling by plane across different timezones is going to be difficult on your body. There is going to be a period of adjustment. There is no miracle pill, and many of the solutions suggested for jet lag are not nearly as effective as they claim. Don’t get disappointed if you still experience some jet lag. Some people experience it more than others, but it’s natural and normal for the human body to experience jet lag.

Strategies That Don’t Work

  1. Homeopathic Jet Lag Remedies: These are sold in health foods stores. In my experience they don’t work any better than a placebo.
  2. Adjusting to the Timezone Before You Leave: For a while, I was using a website called JetLagRooster, which will create a plan for you to adjust to a timezone before you leave. Adjusting to a timezone beforehand only shifts the suffering of jet lag prior to your trip. Planning for a trip is already stressful enough without sleep deprivation.
  3. Staying Awake No Matter What: What I try to do now when I take a night flight is to book a hotel room the night before, because if you arrive at your destination at 8AM you won’t be able to check in. If you’ve done your share of traveling, you know the painful experience of showing up at your hotel early. Book a hotel room, extend your stay by a day, and notify the hotel that you’ll be arriving in the morning. I’ve done this several times and it works. This way, when you arrive at your destination you can take a shower and a nap.

Strategies That Work

  1. Exposing Yourself To Light: If you have trouble with jet lag, you might consider traveling with a small portable light box. Exposing yourself to light (if you arrive at your destination when it’s daytime for them, nighttime for you), tricks your body into adjusting to the new timezone faster.
  2. Melatonin: Melatonin works. It’s a hormone produced by the body  that you can take in a supplemental form. Melatonin encourages sleep (so is great to use if you arrive at your destination when it’s their nighttime, your daytime). Note, melatonin should only be used for two or three days, max. Also, there are multiple doses of melatonin available. You’ll commonly find 10mg pills, which are way too strong but might be used for the first day; 3mg is more appropriate, although some experts say to use less (1.5 mg). Personally, I’ve found that I only get results when I take about 3 mg or more.
  3. Timing Meal Times: Your body runs on a circadian rhythm clock, which is based on sunlight exposure. You get up, there’s light, and the cycle starts—they run for roughly 90 minutes to two hours, so we also experience them during the day. This is why people experience drops in energy throughout the day.This also has to do with body temperature. When our body temperature is lower, we feel more tired.These circadian rhythms are also influenced and controlled by meal times. When you travel your body is used to these rhythms, so now you must shift to a new schedule.Eating during appropriate times for your new timezone is almost as important as light exposure when it comes to readjusting your body. This is going to be tough to hear for some people, but it’s generally a bad idea to get on the plane and eat that meal they serve you. Think about where you are with your new timezone. Is it time to eat? If not, don’t. If you have to have something, have a light snack of fruit or nuts.
  4. Eat Lightly: In general, you want to eat lightly when you travel. Fruit is your best choice. You want to avoid anything heavy. Avoiding caffeine is also a good idea because caffeine is dehydrating.
    This one caveat here: don’t drink caffeine during your trip if you can avoid it, but if your challenge is to stay up, using a little bit of caffeine will help you. Drinking lots of water will also help you.Finally, sleep is important. When you travel across timezones, it can be tiresome and it is important to adjust to the new timezone but it is also important to give your body a chance to rest.

These are my best tips for traveling across timezones and avoiding jet lag! Have you found anything else that truly works? 

Frederic Patenaude

Frederic Patenaude has been an important influence in the raw food and natural health movement since he started writing and publishing in 1998, first by being the editor of Just Eat an Apple magazine. He is the author of over 20 books, including The Raw Secrets, the Sunfood Cuisine and Raw Food Controversies. Since 2013 he’s been the Editor-in-Chief of Renegade Health.

Frederic loves to relentlessly debunk nutritional myths. He advocates a low-fat, plant-based diet and has had over 10 years of experience with raw vegan diets. He lives in Montreal, Canada.

10 COMMENTS ON THIS POST

Comments are closed for this post.

  1. GEORGE ZUK says:

    Greetings Frederic,
    I was an airline pilot for 35 years flying on international flights crossing as many as 16 time zones, going east to west for most of my career. Jet lag was a constant issue for me and all of the flight crew that I flew with. I have used all of the strategies that you suggested in your article but, the one that I found to be a foundation for all of them is…..hydration during, and before the flight.
    A very important factor in flying at any high altitude for more that one hour is dehydration. The humidity factor inside a jet aircraft is approximately 2 percent which draws water from all systems of the body at an horrendous rate and can only be ameliorated by drinking, at the very least, a liter of water (not coffee, tea, soda, alcohol or any other liquid) every 60 to 90 minutes.
    As a crew member, we were able to request the water at any time so, I took that opportunity to do that every
    hour to hydrate myself. I did have to use the lavatory a lot but, that was fine because getting out of my seat for a bit during a 15 hour flight was also very necessary for the body.
    When I was at the destination, I could adjust my body clock much faster if I had hydrated myself adequately before and during the flight. The body takes quite a beating while in those aircraft and, for me and other crew members, water ingestion was our first line of defense.
    All the best and thanks for the article. With so many people flying, it is very relevant and life saving.
    George Zuk :o)

  2. Larkspur says:

    I have flown on many long haul flights over the years – and yes, flying west to east is definitely worse.
    I now fly to US East coast once a year.
    I try to arrive back in UK on a Thursday, plan not to work on the Friday – except check land line messages. I then also have the weekend to take things as they come – i.e. sleep when I want to and eat when hungry. Don’t force may body, – and work from home on the Monday (I am free lance)

    Re the flight itself, I get very hungry and eat everything unless its something disgusting like yogurt. I have coffee after my meal plus a few brandy & dry gingers during the flight. Cannot sleep sitting up, so watch the stars and dawn arising if its night time – and cloud formation and anything else if daytime in suspended animation.

    One point about the new Dreamliner, which I dislike intensely is that the windows (too large) have no blinds, but instead, a dimming system with individual controls, but which crew can also override. Very unpleasant, especially as they tend to do that as dawn approaches or if there is turbulence! – makes this a rather claustrophobic experience! – I know these latter comments are a bit off track re the subject, but do contribute to the overall ‘recovery’ in a detractive manner.

  3. Edwina says:

    Hi Frederic

    I have to tell you, we live in Sydney Australia and travel ALOT, and with children every single time since they were born, they are now (3 and 10), and you know what that means, biggest distances and biggest time changes, especially if you want to head to the Northern Hemisphere! the single biggest game changer, beyond a shadow of a doubt, is Earthing or Grounding. Using the Earth’s energy to recalibrate, amongst other things, the circadian rhythms.

    We carry with us Earthing sheets, so that everyone is sleeping grounded, upon arrival in a new country, and not once, I kid you not, have we ever suffered jet lag again. Even with the greatest time differences. The 3 yo sleeps straight through as if she was at home. It’s incredible. All my friends now use Earthing sheets and particularly those who travel great distances for work on a regular basis, like my husband. He used to say, ‘no, don’t worry, I’ll be fine.’ 9 days later……now he never travels without, and it changes the face of his trip.

    Give it a go!

    Cheers Edwina

  4. Edwina says:

    Sorry, I should add, if you don’t have Earthng sheets, or this is not a possibility for you, then as soon as you can, take your shoes off and get your feet on the ground (surface must be able to conduct Earths energy) and do this for as long as possible to recalibrate and dissipate radiation accumulated during flight. If you are a regular traveler, highly recommend investing in Earthing products though….

  5. Trudy says:

    Sleeping with an earthing throw really worked. Also, I seemed to be more rested on less sleep.
    I use a bit of sleep deprivation to make sure I sleep at the right time on my first night.

  6. Get rid of the watch and shut off the mobile phone. In the aircraft you are in NO time zone so just go with the flow from the time you arrive at the airport – you will arrive when the aircraft does and there is nothing you can do (legally at least) to change it so relax and float along. Look for a clock on arrival and start the process of time adjustment to the new ‘real’ time. Home time only matters for when you call them on the phone and thats their problem not yours if it is 02:00 when think it is fun time.

    Also avoid sleeping much past midday wherever you are especially on the first day. If you do the time adjustment will be cancelled, maybe even set back more, and you must start again.

  7. carol says:

    I fly between the UK and the USA several times a year and I have not one second of jetlag.

    How? I have developed an Emotional Freedom Technique [EFT] tapping sequence that I use before I leave, and also during the flights. It works like magic. I have been using this protocol for several years now, and it has never failed me.

    • Roses says:

      What is the EFT tapping sequence you developed?

      • Carol says:

        Hello Roses!

        One should learn the classic EFT tapping protocol to proceed. Perhaps you already know this? If not, go to EmoFree.com.

        My set-up phrase, for the karate chop point, is: Even though I am travelling through five time zones [to/from the east coast of the USA. West coast would be eight time zones e.g.] my body is at peace and in harmony with the sun. My reminder phrases are, for the first round, ‘five time zones’ and for the subsequent rounds ‘my body is at peace’ [and I really pause and feel it] and then a round of ‘in harmony with the sun’. A final round of ‘my body is at peace and in harmony with the sun’.

        If you feel conspicuous tapping in public, as I still do, go to the bathroom and complete a couple of rounds. Then, on the plane, you can gently rub the tapping points, or just tap, since we are told that nobody is paying any attention to what we are doing! I tap again immediately I have landed, using ‘even though I have flown through five time zones, etc.’

        Get as much sunlight as you can on landing, if it is still daylight. Take off your sunglasses. Then tap a final round as you go to bed.

        I hope this works for you, too. It has never failed me.

    Comments are closed for this post.