I travel. A LOT. 20% of the time for work to all four corners of the earth as well as int’l trips a year for vacation and visiting family. Although I love the thrill of exploring new places, jet lag is a killer. And it can be debilitating especially after traveling across the Pacific for 14 hours only to land, shower at my hotel and then head straight into the office for a meeting. What’s even harder is overcoming the sleepiness that hits you suddenly mid-afternoon as well as battling the staring-at-the-ceiling-at-3-am syndrome. It can be terrible. So how do you beat it?
Over the years, I’ve developed some good tips to beat jet lag and still function well throughout the day. My method totally works for me and maybe these tips can also help you, whether you’re traveling across the country or across several time zones.
1. Take 1 or 2 Tylenol PMs before going to bed that first night you arrive. Unbelievable how well this works! You have to “trick” your body into thinking it’s time to sleep for a full night. The internal body clock is confused anyway when you arrive. I find the Tylenol PMs help me to not only fall asleep but also to STAY asleep so I get at least 6 or 7 hours of sleep that first night.
2. Take a mini nap (no more than 2 hours) if you’ve arrived at your destination early in the morning. This is probably just as important as #1. I’ve made the mistake before of arriving at 6 am in Paris, then taking a huge long nap from 10 am – 4 pm. Boom – I’m wide awake after that and no matter what, I’m screwed because I can’t go to sleep later that evening. So set that alarm, give yourself 2 hours, and then go out – see the city, walk around and then come back later to sleep. Oh and also do #1.
3. If arriving later in the day, do your best to stay awake. If you end up going to sleep too early like at 7 pm then you’ll definitely wake up in the middle of the night. After an international flight, I’ll try to have a light dinner and go for a walk so I don’t fall asleep right after eating. Then I try to stay awake until at least 10 or 11 pm.
4. Take Tylenol PM in smaller dosages on the second and third night. Why, you ask? Because you have to train your body to believe it’s now night time and ready to sleep. Remember, you take the TPMs not to fall asleep, but to STAY asleep until the morning. So by the time it’s the third night on the trip, I’m down to half a tablet and then I’m usually fine for the rest of the trip. I follow the same routine when I come back home from traveling too.
5. Drink plenty of water on the plane and throughout the trip. Hydration is key! If you’re dehydrated, then your body will have to work extra hard to stay focused and be active. Rule of thumb for me is to drink double the amount of water I normally do when traveling.
6. Make sure you schedule light activities on your first day. I usually don’t plan any major team dinners my first or second night on a biz trip because I’m usually so tired by the time 6 pm rolls around. It’s amazing – I feel great when I wake up and then come 4 pm, I hit a wall and then it feels like I just went dancing all night long. So keep things light and give yourself the rest you need.
7. Sleep as much as you can on the plane. I don’t understand when people say to never sleep on a plane. if you’re tired, take a nap. I’m definitely one of those people who can’t sleep well anywhere so I end up reading, working or watching a ton of movies. But if I’m tired on the plane, then I’ll sleep. No need to put my body through any more fatigue.
Do you have other good tips to battle jet lag? Feel free to share!