Tuesday, September 16, 2008

One of the Best Ways to Defeat Jet Lag

Jet lag can be a real killer on long trips, and it can feel like "jet lag squared" when you do a turn around trip to the other side of the globe. One key to surviving a trip like that, if you have the option, is just to not really adjust to the time zone that you travel to. Catch your sleep when you can, and just survive through the hours you have to be awake. That worked out nicely for me on my recent turn around trip to the US. I managed to catch short naps here and there when I was able, so waking at 4:30 every morning wasn't quite as painful as it is when you are really trying to adapt to the new time zone.

It isn't always possible to avoid adapting to the new time zone, though, and that means finding the best ways possible to adjust quickly and painlessly. For me, I generally force myself to stay up until a little after my normal bedtime in the time zone in which I am located. If I go to bed at the normal time, I am almost certain to wake up very early in the morning (usually around 2). If I can stay up at least half an hour past my normal bedtime, and preferably a full hour, that helps a lot.

But perhaps the biggest help in recovering from jet lag is to spend time in natural light. Go outdoors during the day, and let your body know that this is the time to stay awake. Last week when I returned home from that crazy trip around the world, I went running in the middle of the afternoon. It was hot, and I was very tired, and so I ran rather slowly, and not very far. This helped me adjust to the idea that this is daytime, the time I am supposed to be awake. In addition, a little light exercise really helps loosen up joints that have grown stiff on the long flight. In many ways, a long walk or short run can be very helpful in defeating jet lag... but don't do it on a treadmill. Get outdoors and soak up the natural light. That is one of the most important ways to defeat jet lag.

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silken said...

good idea. i do try to get out and at least walk, even if I am really tired. plus, i've never had to do a "turn around" trip....

hifidel said...

On the turn around trip... I don't recommend you try it. NOT fun!

I read an article about the natural light thing, and I think there is something to it. I even wondered if that is not part of why travel to the US is one of the hardest times to recover from jet lag — so much of life there is spent in artificial lighting.