South Africa 2008 - Avoiding or Minimizing Jet Lag
We're back and we've got a little problem. Part of the family has jet lag and part doesn't. It doesn't matter who does or doesn't ;) but some of us have figured out a few basic tricks when crossing more than 4 time zones. They work for us, but YMMV (Your Mileage May Vary).
In this case, we were travelling from GMT-8 to GMT+2, so that's 10 time zones. Right now it's 9:05pm where I am, and it's 7:05am tomorrow morning in South Africa.
It's not really possible to completely AVOID Jet Lag. It is JET-lag, and not bicycle-lag or walking-to-fast-lag. The human body just wasn't meant to cross an ocean in a few hours. It's supposed to take a few months or not happen at all. ;)
Now, as a diabetic, I have to pay more attention to Time Zones than most travelers, but this is all pretty standard jet-lag stuff but a little attention to detail and being willing to mess with oneself psychologically can cut your jet-lag recovery time in half or better.
- Ahead of Time: Try to work out lots, especially cardio, in the days before your trip. I'm not sure why this works, maybe circulation, maybe it makes you tired, but it helps.
- Water: Drink ridiculous amounts of water. I try to do at least two liters a day while travelling and I keep drinking two liters a day when I'm recovering from the flight. (Really, just drink lots of water all the time)
- Take Advantage of the Flight Time: Our total door-to-door travel time was just over 26 hours. That's 26 hours that you COULD be getting acclimated to the destination time. I move my watch, and consciously try to move my brain to the destination time as soon as I sit down in my chair. That means literally saying to yourself, "OK, it's 7am. What would I be doing at 7am?" and trying to do it. You might find yourself needing to walk briskly around the plane when everyone else is sleeping, but it's worth it. There's many travel hours that you can be using to get ready for destination time.
- Don't sleep when the Clock says it's Day: Lots of folks say that "your body knows what it needs." I believe this is nonsense when travelling. I think that jet-lag is the one time when your body has NO idea what it needs. You need to override your body's ignorance with your brain. If you get in to Europe at 2pm and you are exhausted, really, wait until at least 8pm or preferably later to sleep, otherwise you're screwed. I've watched people wandering around at 2am, ready for dinner, because they've slept their "8" in the middle of the day on destination time.
- Be aware of travel direction: I find that travelling West is really easy. Travelling East is the killer. An excellent explanation from Wikipedia:
- Westward from London to Los Angeles, VIA BA0279, Jan 29, 2008. Time zone difference 8 hours.
- Eastward from Los Angeles to London, VIA BA0278, Jan 29, 2008.
The first scenario is equivalent to staying up all night and going to bed at 6am the next day — 9 hours later than usual. But the second scenario (eastward) is equivalent to staying up all night and going to bed at 2pm the next day — 12 hours after the time one would otherwise have gone to bed.
- Use Daylight: This one is the most important. When you arrive, either home or away, be outside as long and as often as possible. We used this on the children. The more sun you get (don't get burned) the more your brain will be reminded that it's daytime and you should be awake. This works even if it's snowy or gray. Just get outside!
There seems to be some evidence that traveling west to east is the more disruptive. This may be because most people have a circadian period which is a bit longer than 24 hours, making it easier to stay up later than to get up earlier.
It may also be that flights to the east are more likely to require people to stay awake more than one full night in order to adjust to the local time zone. For example, comparing a typical schedule for a traveler flying to the East vs a traveler flying to the West:
|Westward||Biological clock||Los Angeles local|
|Departure||JAN 29 - 10:05||JAN 29 - 02:05|
|Arrival||JAN 29 - 21:10||JAN 29 - 13:10|
|Bedtime||JAN 30 - 06:00||JAN 29 - 22:00|
|Eastward||Biological clock||London local|
|Departure||JAN 29 - 15:59||JAN 29 - 23:59|
|Arrival||JAN 30 - 02:05||JAN 30 - 10:05|
|Bedtime||JAN 30 - 14:00||JAN 30 - 22:00|
What works for you, Dear Reader, when trying to minimize jet-lag?