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One of the most frustrating things about traveling between continents is jet lag.  It's a little different for everyone but basically is caused by your body's 24 bio-rhythm (internal clock) being thrown into disarray by changing time zones, disrupted patterns of eating and sleeping, and altered exercise routines.  Some say dehydration caused by air travel contributes and it probably does (so drink water and avoid too much caffeine and alcohol).  Experienced business traveler Songhua Ni sleeps as much as he can while flying to beat his jet lag, as he shares with the Wall Street Journal in this article


To make matters worse, once you've adjusted to that foreign time zone, your vacation ends and you return home and repeat the cycle of jet lag.


I've found no great cure.  I tend to try to nap on the plane, too,  but when I land I force myself to get into that local timezone.  I don't nap when I land.  I tend to get out and walk around for the day, seeing and doing as much as I can. (and physically tiring myself).  After dinner I crash and sleep as long as I can.  That usually works pretty well, but still I tend to wake up early for a number of days and tiring in the afternoon.


I'm curious what your experience is.  How do you deal with jet lag.

Twitter: @DrFumblefinger

"We do not take a trip, a trip takes us".  John Steinbeck, from Travels with Charlie

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I hate to say it, but I think that Songhua Ni's advice—sleep as much as you can, and walk around a bit—is going to work much better for front-of-the-plane flat-bed-seat people like him than it is for the rest of us.


I recently had the pleasure of New York-Doha round-trip on Qatar, bumped up to the front, and it made an immense difference in my sleep, especially the quality of it.


Otherwise, my best advice, based mostly on trans-Atlantic travel, is get on the plane to Europe tired, sleep as soon as you can (even ignoring the meal) so that you wake up in Europe on European morning, after a night's sleep. And plan only a light day and an early night the first night. Going westbound I try to stay awake, so that my late afternoon arrival allows me to get to sleep right after supper and wake up again on U.S. time.


But, as with all jet lag's individual. My wife has more trouble sleeping on planes, and takes longer to adjust.

The best part of every trip is realizing that it has upset your expectations

My method is similar--get on the local schedule as best as I can.  I do not nap upon arrival.  Fortunately, I am usually so dang excited that adrenaline takes over and am usually fairly alert until after dinner time.  Unfortunately, that also means I have nearly an impossible time sleeping on planes.  Even with a sleep aid.


I've read of people adjusting their schedule for up to two weeks ahead of time to make up for the change in the schedule, making their sleep rhythms in tune with the local schedule so that it has already adjusted upon their arrival.  Nice idea which may work; however, as a working professional, I don't have the luxury of making that change over that amount of time as I still need to be alert during working hours.


Now if I can get my boss to allow me to take 4 weeks off instead of two weeks, that would be ideal!  Somehow I don't think she will go for that, though...!



"Do you know where you are?"  "No idea.  More fun that way!" - 10th Doctor

When you arrive at your departure airport set your watch to your destination time.

Sleep as much as you want to on the flight.

Wear headphones to avoid being woken - listen to some smooth tunes on your MP3.

Take snacks and bottled water.

Don't eat big meals before and during your flight.

Take a puzzle book to keep your mind active while you are awake.

Take a pee long before they put the seat belt sign on for landing.

(Waiting too long in line for Immigration when you're busting makes you bad tempered)


Last edited by GarryRF

I forgot that important point Garry makes...the watch. When you're dozing on the plane, in and out, you lose sense of the time...which makes it the ideal time to fool yourself onto destination time. Setting your watch ahead 6 hours when you're wide awake and just got off the plane doesn't really work.

The best part of every trip is realizing that it has upset your expectations

As shift workers know,it's much easier to sleep at night and if i can arrive in the afternoon or early evening, I can better adjust by going to bed late that first night.

For flights to Europe, it's hard because the majority of trans-Atlantic flights arrive in the morning and its a struggle to fully enjoy that day until night.

If you want a thing done, ask a busy man.

Some people claim the newer generations of jet-liners, like the Boeing  787, will reduce jet lag because they allow higher humidity in the cabin and higher air pressure (more oxygen).  In fact that was discussed right here on a TravelGumbo during an interview with Norwegian Air.


A few more points.  I try not to have more than one or two connections on any flight, especially on overseas trips (for people traveling from small cities, this can be challenging).  I find the fatigue factor clouds my judgement to the point where I make stupid mistakes (eg. forget something in the plane).  I'll split it into two trips.  For example, we spent time in New York before flying to South Africa on our trip from the West Coast. 


Also, I find if there's a single night it's important to have a decent place to sleep is that first night on an overseas trip.  It doesn't have to be luxurious, but a comfortable bed in a quiet room is priceless after having been squeezed into the back of the plane for hours and hours.

Twitter: @DrFumblefinger

"We do not take a trip, a trip takes us".  John Steinbeck, from Travels with Charlie

You're quite right DrF !

Usually when I return on a long flight the cabin is like a Doctors waiting room.

Coughing and sneezing and spluttering. Headache.

But the Dreamliner was - a dream !

So much healthier and with the windows darkened 'til just before breakfast - most people slept well - even the babies on board


I always change my watch as soon as I get on the plane. I do this even with a short change (like 1 hour NY-CHI). I try to adjust my sleep to the destination - so when it is bed time (around midnight) I will take a "PM" pill to help on a long flight.


When I get to my destination I will immediately get on that day's schedule, do as much as possible and and get to sleep at as close to my regular time ( again, with the help of a sleep aid if needed).

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