PLEASE, Jet Lag is a Drag

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PLEASE, jet lag is a drag.

You can lose a day or two of valuable travel time if you’re dragging because of a time difference. We came up with a simple acronym to remember how to avoid this obstacle on your next voyage. PLEASE remember these tips. You’ll be glad you did.

1) PLanning your itinerary.

  • Take a red-eye. Speaking of which, take an overnight flight if flying longer than six hours. With a little help, you’ll get some rest and feel refreshed when you arrive at your destination (find out how to do this under #4).
  • Limit your “short” layovers on the way to your destination. No matter how much you might save by taking a stop or two, you will interrupt your time to adjust your schedule. For example, fly direct if you’re flying from Los Angeles to London. You’ll get 10+ hours of uninterrupted flying. If you stop in New York on the way, you break that time in half transferring to another jet, preventing you from getting needed rest (see #4).
  • Do you have multiple cities on your itinerary? Try structuring your stops to help you adjust. For example, we recently went first to Spain, then Italy, and stopped in New York on the way back to Los Angeles. This helped to adjust on the way to Italy. Then we had a weekend in New York to adjust slightly before heading all the way home to the Pacific coast. It made the adjustment MUCH easier.

2) Eating and drinking the right stuff.

  • Caffeine, both a friend and a foe. Decreasing caffeine intake prior to travel allows your body to adjust more easily to a time change. Try cutting back your coffee, tea, and/or soda intake by at least half prior to your travel. When you depart, you can adjust your caffeine intake as needed to adjust en route or during your voyage. It will help you keep going when you run out of steam.
  • Eating healthy keeps your energy high. Airports, flight attendants, and fast food are an easy bite to eat, but can leave you lethargic or suffering from digestive issues. Worse, salty foods on flights can make your limbs swell and feeling uncomfortable. Sampling some decadent local food is ok, but you’ll feel much better and energetic if you stick with fresh and healthy options.
  • Alcohol in moderation. This can be a challenge when cocktails, wine, beer and more are more readily available than a bottle of water on planes and in certain countries. Bottom line, alcohol dehydrates, causing you to swell. Worse, too much of the sauce can leave you with a nasty hangover, turning your vacation into recovery time. If you do drink, be sure to use the alternating method – drink a glass of water for every glass of alcohol.

3) Adjust your schedule early.

  • A little preparation goes a long way. A week or two before your travel, try adjusting your home schedule to match the schedule at your destination.  If you can wake earlier for easterly travel or later for westerly travel, you’ll adjust more quickly. For example, my son was working an early shift at his job months before spending two weeks in Europe. Because he was accustomed to waking at ungodly hours of the morning, adjusting to the Italy time zone was a piece of cake.

4) Sleep timing.

  • This sounds a little redundant at this point, but we can’t stress how important it is to adjust your sleep timing. Before you depart for your destination, figure out what your new waking and sleeping schedule will look like. Plan to start this schedule on the way to your destination. Go to sleep and wake up at the normal time at your destination. If you’re flying during the day, force yourself to stay awake. There’s no better time to focus on work, reading, or movie watching than an airplane seat.
  • Some will tell you to use sleeping aids to help you sleep. We’ve tried many. While some work better for others, it boils down to only a couple. First, melatonin is the lightest and most natural way to encourage your body to sleep. It doesn’t do anything for us on an airplane. We use Xanax as prescribed by a doctor. As an anti-anxiety prescription, it helps to relax, get a few good hours of sleep, and allow us to function normally when waking (when taking the right dose). OTC sleeping pills, like Tylenol PM, will leave you groggy and feeling terrible. We all have heard horror stories of people taking Ambien and doing things they don’t remember. If your flight turns around (which it has for us plenty of times), you want to functional. Xanax or melatonin will do the trick, but allow you to function.

5) Exercise, exercise, exercise.

  • Exercise is one of the most effective ways to help your body adjust. When flying, good blood circulation very important. When en route to your destination, get up occasionally and walk around (while the fasten seat belt light is off, of course). Keep the blood flowing to prevent swelling, especially on long flights. At your destination, go for a good jog or hit the gym for a short workout. It will help your body adjust much more quickly as it produces endorphins, gets your body active during the daylight, and reorients your eating schedule to the new time zone.
Remember to PLEASE be wise while traveling. You’ll avoid dreaded jet lag by following these tips.