Jet Lag: A dozen ways to beat it

The other day I booked a flight. Among other things I need to do in preparation, I got to thinking about jet lag. Nothing I’ve said here hasn’t been said before. However, I thought I’d use the opportunity to write something for the Artificial Intelligence tasked to read and rank listicles for Google. Perhaps that will boost my ratings.

Listicles, if you don’t know that term, are articles in the form of lists. Those are especially beloved by algorithms. Alas, these may have done more disservice to elegant writing than either Orwell or Hemingway. (No, I’m not a fan.)

As a result, too many readers now-a-days couldn’t follow a compound-complex sentence if their lives depended on it. Nor can a good many writers compose one. (Which is sort of like a three-chord band until a George Martin steps in.)  And so far, I don’t think there’s a syntax app for that–but I completely and totally and unapologetically digress.

Back to the subject at hand. There are numerous ways to mitigate jet lag. Most require only a little pre-planning and can save all sorts of anguish caused by lack of sleep.

1. Prepare for the new time-zone before leaving. If you can’t slowly push your time frame (in daily 15-minute intervals) toward that of your destination in the weeks ahead of your trip, at least be relaxed and well-rested in your own time-zone. If you are frantic and suffering adrenal fatigue before you start, you’ve created a larger problem than necessary. (You get no clucking sympathy in this quarter.)

2. Use No-Jet-Lag. I have used it often with great success.

Where to buy

3. Stay hydrated. Really hydrated. A travel-seasoned friend and former Olympic athlete recommends slowly sipping 2 litres of water while in the air. And more on the ground before take-off as well as after disembarking.

4. Limit—or better still avoid—alcohol. It dehydrates the body and interrupts sleep. No-fun advice, but good advice.

5. Eat properly. Keep high-quality fuel in your tank. Small meals and snacks are good stop-gap measures until your body signals catch up to the new time zone. You wouldn’t let your car run out of gas before refuelling. Why would you let your body crash because you don’t feel hungry?

6. Meditate or stay in a semi-meditative state during the flight.  However, the risk of thrombosis increases if you are motionless too long.To counter that risk, take a baby aspirin the day before, the day of and day after your flight.

7. Walk the aisle occasionally. Sometimes, the flight crew doesn’t like it and will say so. So what. If you feel like it, remind them you’re the paying guest.

8. Perform exercises in your seat. This only works in cattle class if you are small enough. Although any range of motion is unrealistic for anyone over 160 cm tall, clench and release exercises together with compression socks help stimulate your circulation and avoid thrombosis.

9. After landing, act according to the time in your new zone. Never mind that you’ve travelled for 23 hours and it is 4:00 AM on your body clock. Stay up until an hour which could reasonably be considered bedtime (like 8:30 PM). Then mimic your home schedule on the new time as closely as you can.

10. After landing, if needed, take a half-dose of a prescription drug such as Zopiclone in order to sleep. Why? Because it works. You’ll come to no harm using this tool for a day or two to kick your body-clock over to the new time zone.

♦ A simple chemical reset can be immensely helpful. I can’t understand why people resist that option but willingly knock back multiple drinks (which we know impairs sleep) without second thought. If you need something to temporarily and gently shut the central nervous system down, use it.

♦ One of my travel companions went 72 wakeful hours before crashing for another 24 with an incapacitating migraine. Then she dragged herself around at half-speed for another 48. That was 6 days shot. Unless you need to trump everyone else’s moan miles, why waste your time or tax a travel partner’s patience that way?

11. Use a neck pillow and an eye mask. Inflatable pillows take up no space but save a great deal of neck pain. Many mask options exist to comfortably effectively block the light. Lavender scented ones are extra relaxing. Some can also be heated or chilled as needed.

12. Invest in noise cancelling headphones or custom ear plugs. The latter are especially helpful when you have wailing infants on board. They also reduce engine, street or hotel noise. You never know when your room will be right next to the roof-top ventilation system and changing rooms in a fully booked hotel is not an option.

Do what works for you. Every person has varying sensitivities. Taking a hot shower before bed will only kick some people’s adrenal systems into overload. Taking cat naps until you adjust works for some, but not for others. You know your own body best. Listen to it.

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