I’ve flown almost 2 million miles (alas, most of them before the airlines kept good records of mileage); in fact, during a 3-year period in the early 1990’s I was on an average of 1 airplane per day (they call us “road warriors”). I’d often have to fly half-way around the world for a 1-hour meeting in Singapore, or worse, fly overnight to London and be fresh enough to give a presentation after landing. Having to fly this kind of schedule internationally on business, I couldn’t afford to suffer jet lag, so I researched ways to conquer it.
The book at the time was the Anti-Jet Lag Diet. It was quite complex, calling for a 3-day preparation period of feasting and starving and providing many other rules. Today, there are many other books and websites on jet lag. I reduced it all down to 5 basic principles that have served me well in avoiding jet lag.
1. Don’t nap! Most important: On arriving at your destination, don’t nap, or you’ll have jet lag for a week. You can get to bed early (say 9 p.m.), but keep up and active until then.
2. On your day of travel and a couple of days after, take caffeine (coffee, tea, colas) ONLY at breakfast time of your destination. Caffeine resets your body clock; taking it only in the early morning will help that resetting.
3. Sunlight also resets your body clock, so let your eyes see sunlight from morning of your destination — open the window shades in the plane – until night. Don’t use sunglasses for the first couple of days.
4. Eat high protein breakfasts and lunches; low protein, high carbohydrate dinners. Proteins are hard to digest; carbs, fruits, and vegetables are easy. Your digestive system will be off-schedule with the time zone changes, so help it adjust by waking it up in the daytime and letting it rest at night. Proteins at dinner will have your stomach churning at 3 a.m., waking you and keeping you up.
5. Drinks lots of water on the plane. Jet travel is very dehydrating and dehydration will make jet lag worse. A corollary is not to drink alcohol on planes. But flying first class internationally, I always chose to drink their expensive wines and liquors and had no problems as long as I kept chugging water. Good flight attendants would always give me big bottles of water to keep me hydrated. Tougher to do so in coach, but you can always go the galley and ask for a cup of water.
A final tip: If you’re flying coach, buy and use blindfolds and ear plugs. (These are given away in the amenities kits provided in first and business class.) The jet noise is surprisingly loud – even though it’s “white noise” – and the ear plugs dampen the sound dramatically. The blindfold also keeps lights from interfering with your sleep. Using both will help you get a restful sleep.
That’s it. I hope these 5 simple rules (plus little tip) will help you avoid jet lag and so you too can say “I don’t do jet lag.”