Beat the Lag

I don’t have many enemies in life, but jetlag is one of them.  Anyone who does a lot of international travel knows how bad it can be.  I hate it. I hate it more than I hate hell and the Montagues. That said I’ve gotten to a place where I beat it on 90% of my long trips. Here are my travel tips and tricks:

  • Pre-lag – If you can either get on the new sleep schedule a day before you leave it will significantly make your first day in the new place easier. In my recent trip to Ethiopia for example, I stayed up all night playing League of Legends. I then slept on the SEA-LAX morning flight and just as importantly, fell asleep for the first three hours of LAX-DXB (Dubai).  Usually, when travelling to Europe, I don’t stay up all night but instead try and wake up at ~3:30am.
  • Rhythm Method – Similar to sleep, your biological clock ticks to eating cycles. The sooner you move to the new timezone the easier it will be for your body to adjust. Planes generally feed you on a consistent schedule. Big meal an hour in, and then light snack an hour before. This doesn’t line up with meal times in your destination. If you can have the self control / snack foresight to instead eat closer to where it will be in your destination, it will make it a lot easier. In my LAX-DXB example, I slept through the big meal, but when I woke had a few snacks to tide me over until an hour and a half before landing, where I tried to gorge as it was 6:00 local time.
  • Super Hydrate – Water is life.  They don’t give you enough water on planes. Flying that altitude is very dehydrating. Stress is dehydrating. Recycled air is dehydrating.  Proper hydration is super key.  I try to double the amount of water I normally drink.  A half a liter an hour would be a good baseline, though more is better. This also applies to before and after taking off. A good way to not sleep the whole evening is to go to be dehydrated. Lack of water also impairs sleep quality in general. So drink water.
  • Teetotal – Do you know what dehydrates you? Beer, wine and booze. It’s fun to drink on planes.  I’ve had my turns of getting stinko at 30,000 feet, but know that you’ll pay the penalty in making the jet lag worse.  If you do drink, make sure that you’re drinking a half liter of water per glass of booze on top of your already increased water consumption.  This also applies to after you land, as alcohol consumption impaires sleep. I just avoid planes in general and try to avoid more than a glass of wine or a cider when I land.
  • Decaffeinate – You know what also dehydrates you? Coffee and tea. You know what also throws off your sleep schedule? Coffee and tea. The big caveat here is that it does help you stay awake and alert you. I make sure to avoid coffee or tea ~eight hours before wanting to sleep. Nothing is worse than your body wanting to sleep while your mind takes a ride on a caffeine induced thought train.
  • Make the Sun Come – You know how birds fall asleep with that sheet over their cage trick because they think it’s night? We’re no different. If you’re feeling sleepy after you’re on the ground, go for a walk. Even if you’re in a land of no sun (see also: Seattle. Dublin) it’s better to be outside so your body can see the day. So make sure to not just lock yourself in a conference room all day. That won’t help your body adjust.

 

Good luck!  I’m also looking to improve the Vechey Method. Any tricks I should add that anyone else has?

 

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  1. You covered it pretty well, the alcohol one was a big one for me because once I started flying business I tried to “get my money’s worth” from the free booze, to expected results.

    The best $13 I’ve spent on travel is this Bucky 40 Blinks eye mask:

    http://www.amazon.com/Bucky-Blinks-Mask-Ultralight-Black/dp/B000WNX21Y/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1331210239&sr=8-1

    I’ve never been able to use an eye mask before, but even though these look funny I find them really comfortable and keep them folded in my backpack and use them all the time.

    • That’s a good call. I should collect some ideas from people on simple things that can help.

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