How To Avoid Jet Lag (And Therefore Avoid Joining The Walking Dead)
The old rule of thumb is that it takes one day for every time zone that you pass over to fully adjust and get over jet lag. This is not very reassuring if, say, you’re heading to Asia from New York for two weeks, which would mean that just as you’ve finally fully adjusted to the 12 time zones you’ve crossed, you’re packing yourself back into a plane to do it all over again — this time in reverse.
However, there are a few ways the human body can adapt to jet lag, a few of which were discussed recently by the NY Times in a sprawling interview with — who else? — a NASA consultant.
Going East or West?
Their first suggestion is to figure out whether you’re traveling east or west (presumably you’ve figured this out by the time you’ve begun preparations to avoid jet lag). If heading east, start getting up and watching the closing market business news from Asia — slowly adapting your body ahead of time will help make the adjustment go quicker. If going west, do the opposite (watch the opening market news from Asia?).
Wear Sunglasses at Night
In the words of Corey Hart, start wearing your sunglasses at night, or more specifically, in the plane while you’re flying. People will either think you’re a rock star, a spy, a douchebag or a seasoned traveler who knows that by avoiding natural light during the flight heading eastward (when it is nighttime in the location you’re going to), you are helping to adjust your body clock to your new time zone. Similarly, once you’ve landed, soak up the sunlight during the day hours to help signal to your body that it’s daytime, not 4 a.m.
Get Sleepy On Time
And to best reset your clock, make sure you get to bed at the proper time in your new time zone. Do this by avoiding alcohol (at least for the first night), and avoiding light for an hour before bed time. And if push comes to shove, queue up some Charlie Rose on T.V. while you lay in bed to help you drift off.
Drink, Avoid Drugs and Exercise
Other suggestions bantered by others include anecdotal evidence from flight attendants that staying hydrated helps alleviate symptoms, so stock up on the water while in flight. There are drugs, including melantonin or sleeping pills, which some people take to help hasten the adjustment, but many people recommend avoiding artificial substances to aid your sleep — changing time zones is enough of a shock to the body, introducing chemical inducements for sleeping can only lead to more confusion for your body. And exercise, the cure-all for basically all ailments, is widely recommended as a means to make you feel better, but also acts a natural means to make you sleepier come bed time.
If all else fails, you could resort to throwing up your hands and sticking to your original time zone, and joining the ranks of club-goers, crack addicts, security guards and college students as you explore your new surroundings at 3 a.m. in a city, surprisingly devoid of other tourists.
Posted on August 21, 2012 by Matt Stabile