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5 Ways to Avoid Jet Lag When You Travel

5 Ways to Avoid Jet Lag When You Travel
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I’ve traveled more than 2 million miles and have endured many dramatic time-zone shifts.  This includes 7 hour flights to London from Chicago, 12 hour flights from Chicago to Tokyo, and nonstop flights from Chicago to Hong Kong and Sydney Australia ranging from 16 to 18 hours.  I’ve learned the hard way when it comes to managing jet lag and the best solution is a common sense approach.  Here are 5 things I have found that help.

Adjust your sleep pattern

Calculate when you’re going to arrive and adjust your sleep pattern, especially on the plane.  If you’re going to arrive in Hong Kong at 10:30 pm and you departed Chicago at noon you need to understand that noon in Chicago is 1:00 or 2:00 am in Hong Kong.  It’s a 16 hour flight so what’s a person to do? Sleep like you’re in Hong Kong.  That means hitting the sack right after boarding the plane if it’s bedtime in China.

The incorrect pattern is to treat the flight like an extension of your day.  That probably means you’ll sleep during the last 7 to 8 hours of your Hong Kong flight and arrive refreshed and ready…  at 10:30 at night!  You face the same challenges on your return. I remember departing from Hong Kong at 10 a.m. on a Saturday and landing at 10 a.m. on the same Saturday.  I was actually weak in the knees because I had forgotten to adjust my sleep pattern for the return.

And don’t assume you have to always hit the sack upon boarding.  It all depends on what time it is at your destination.  That determines the sleep pattern you should follow.

Plan ahead

A day or two before your departure try to adopt a sleep pattern that will put you on the plane prepared to continue your adjustment to a new time-zone .  I’ll awaken at 3 a.m. sometimes to get a head start for this adjustment.

When you attempt to sleep on the plane, take advantage of the ear plugs and eye masks that some flights provide, or bring along some headphones or ear-buds to listen to music that makes you sleep.  Some travelers take melatonin. This is a herb that relaxes you and can help you sleep.

Also, make sure your seat belt is fastened over your blanket and put a note on the blanket indicating when you want to be awakened.  Flight attendants are sensitive to experienced travelers and they’ll wake you when you indicate.

You may find that you’ve missed the primary meal service if you go to sleep soon after boarding.  If you don’t want a dinner of noodles and granola bars, order a special meal before the flight and they’ll prepare it for your when you’re ready.

Stay hydrated and avoid alcohol and caffeine

It may seem logical to have a drink or two to help you sleep, but both air-cabin atmosphere and alcohol will dehydrate you.  Coffee will do the same.  This will add to jet lag and send you into your first day tired and potentially hung-over.  Don’t drink too much water however.  You may find you awaken too early to go to the bathroom.

Eat light

The days of flight attendants carving slabs of prime rib next to your seat are long gone, but many meal choices on long flights are still high in fat.  Try to eat light.  Fruit, vegetables, salads and other complex Carbs are the way to go.  In fact, eating light a few days before a long trip helps as well.  It will be much easier on your metabolism and on that difficult first day in a dramatically different time zone.  If you order a special meal before your flight you might have more options than the standard, “beef, chicken or fish.”

Dress for the occasion

A business suit may make you look like a pro, but it’s no joy on a long flight.  I wear light sweatpants, white socks, a light sweat shirt and those little slippers they sometimes have on the plane.  The sweat pants and shirt are usually baggy and comfortable.  I’ll usually jump into the bathroom on the plane and change soon after boarding.  Usually you stop at the hotel upon arrival and that’s the place to get dressed for the day.

Regardless of your best efforts you may find it’s difficult to get any long-duration sleep.  When you’re the only one on the plane trying to stay asleep you may have some inevitable interruptions from pilot announcements to turbulence to a seat-mate who gets up from their seek frequently.  Request a window seat to avoid the inevitable seat-mate interruptions.  Over time you’ll get pretty good at this if you travel frequently.













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