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How would you best hande this jet lag?

dep 11:40 AM
Chicago, IL (ORD) to Philadelphia, PA (PHL)

dep 6:15 PM
Philadelphia, PA (PHL) to Zurich arrive 8:25 AM next day

Then when we get to Zurich in the morning we are planning to head straight for Mürren.

Maybe sleep on the plane but try and get up around what would be 6am? 2 hours before we land. Head to Mürren and get to sleep around 9 or 10pm?

Posted by
357 posts

That seems like a lot of planning for sleep - unless you're very lucky. Your body may not decide to go to sleep at the same time you'd like to. Sleep when you can and realize that it may take a day or so for the clock and your body to agree on what time it is.
I do like the idea of trying to stay up until a decent time for going to bed. You may want to allow your body to decide when to wake up the next morning, instead of setting up a tight schedule starting early.

Posted by
6403 posts

You can't force yourself to sleep when your body feels like it's supposed to be early afternoon. After making several trips to Europe that began with the first days going quite differently than I had expected, now I have several rules now:

On my day of arrival ("Day Zero") - the flights always seem to be overnights from the US that arrive in the morning - I schedule nothing more than finding the hotel, checking in and walking around to try and get oriented. I try to force myself to be outside and walk and keep moving, and stay up until at least dinner/dark. The next day ("Day 1" of the actual trip) I plan for a light day, since I'll usually be at about 75% at best.

I try not to land in Europe and then zoom off to someplace to sightsee.

Posted by
9363 posts

When I fly to Ireland my flights leave Chicago around 8:00 pm and they arrive around 9:00 am Irish time. I just get as much sleep as I can on the plane and hit the ground running the next day. For example, the last time I went (flying into Shannon), I drove immediately to Blarney, stopping along the way at a donkey sanctuary. Once in Blarney, we toured the castle and grounds, then had an early dinner. We managed to stay up until around 8:00 pm. The next day I was fine.

Your flight times aren't much different from most going to Europe. You won't need to make plans for what time to get up -- it's unlikely that you will get much good sleep, anyway. Just try to stay outside and active for as long as you can when you arrive. You might also check out previous discussions here about jet lag.

Posted by
9955 posts

I do somewhat the opposite of what David does. Flying from the West Coast makes for a long trip, arriving in Europe in the morning. I try to get as much sleep as I can on the plane. I have flown to Europe 3 times in the last 3 years, and each trip I have had to change planes twice. Two of the 3 trips I have immediately left the area upon arriving, just as you are planning to do. I try to keep as busy as possible the first day and go to bed at a "normal" bedtime. When I wake up the next morning I am good to go. I have not suffered from jetlag. One thing I discovered before my last trip is something called Simply Sleep. It is essentially Tylenol PM without the pain reliever. I think that taking it helped me get a full nights sleep that first night.

I hate to waste any time of my trip by just "settling in" that first day!

Posted by
1631 posts

Even after 6 trips to Europe, I just never know how the flight over might be for me in reference to sleep. Often times, I'm so excited I just can't relax enough to get a lot of sleep. I do know that once I arrive, my adrenaline keeps me going. However, once I do arrive at my hotel and finally sit down, I'm a zombie. So, I take a 3-4 hour nap. After some rest, I then get out into town, walk around and get dinner. Then I'm ready for a normal night's sleep at 11 p.m. Looking at the train schedules, I see you have a little more than a 3 hour ride to Muerren. Your challenge will be not to fall asleep on the train and miss your stops. I'm sure your excitement will keep you awake. Have fun--Muerren is a great place for your first night.

Posted by
4132 posts

I would do the standard things for jet lag, if I could. Cold turkey from caffeine beforehand, Argonne Labs diet, and melatonin. On landing, get plenty of daylight.

The goal is not to sleep on the flight--though that would be nice--but to reduce or even avoid jet lag by shifting your circadian clock.

The diet and melatonin do that. Sleeping aides in flight, even if they work, won't--you'll still have jet lag after you wake up.

Personally I find it well worth the effort involved to avoid jet lag and make the first day count. (Also, I know from experience that I tolerate Melatonin well--your experience may vary.)

Posted by
481 posts

Our flights from the West Coast to Europe always have us arriving before 12:00 noon. I am NOT a good plane sleeper so basically, I'm up for several hours straight. Keeping busy that first day has actually been the most helpful to me. Then around 6:00 in the afternoon the jet lag really kicks in and I try to hold on until at least 8:00pm before going to bed.

It never fails, though. I'm always wide awake at 4:00am for a couple of days.

Posted by
11 posts

I eat lightly on the plane, drink LOTS of water, no caffeine, no sugar and no alcohol. This has helped my jet lag resolve more quickly than using sleep aids. I also request a meal without pasta or red meat. Once I land I follow the same general diet for the first 24 hours and still drink lots of water.

Posted by
10344 posts

The subject of melatonin has come up. Surprising to some/many is this from Rick on melatonin in ETBD:

"Other travelers rave about melatonin, a hormone that supposedly helps re-calibrate your internal clock (available over-the-counter in the US, but illegal in some European countries)." (p. 301, Europe Through The Back Door 2009).

Posted by
12040 posts

The final word on melatonin- no better than placebo.

Posted by
9079 posts

I work the graveyard shift, so I take Melatonin from time to time to keep my body clock in check. From experience I can say it's no placebo....It will knock you out. It is indeed prescription only outside the US. Back in the Mid-90s when Melatonin was at the height of it's popularity, their were reports in the media of Canadian Customs confiscating it from American travelers.

Posted by
4132 posts

Melatonin is not placebo--it is a human pituitary hormone, and a potent one. There's been lots of science on it, plenty on the web.

It is also the single most important thing I do for jet lag, though there are other steps to take as well. Unlike sleeping pills, it resets the human circadian clock. It may also "knock you out," but not necessarily; my experience is that my eyes get really tired.

I agree with Kent about the value of reducing jet lag. For me, the inconvenience of fussy diets and pills is well worth the ability to hit the ground running. On my last trip, I enjoyed a very full day of sightseeing the day I landed, with a little fatigue but no jet lag.

Posted by
93 posts

I used to have terrible jet lag, but not since I started taking Ambien. After dinner and sometimes watching a movie on the plane, I take either a half or whole tablet, depending on how much time I have to sleep. If it's less than 4 hours, I take only half. I usually wake right before we land and am refreshed enough to last until mid-afternoon. I then take a nap (usually a couple of hours) until it's time for dinner.

I keep half an Ambien on the bedside table for the first couple of nights because I often wake up in the middle of the night and can't sleep.

I'm also older and require less sleep now so that might be a factor.

Posted by
360 posts

I don't have a problem with jet lag, just with sleep in general. After a trip where I never got more than a few hours a night, I began using Ambien. Getting some sleep on the plane is important to me, so I take half a 10mg when dinner is over & things start to settle down. I get some off & on sleep & I'm always alert when the plane lands. I take 10mg each night after that. I sleep 8 hrs & always feel great in the am.

Posted by
12040 posts

"Melatonin is not placebo--it is a human pituitary hormone, and a potent one."

Oral formulations failed in numerous double-blind placebo controlled studies to show any difference from placebo in inducing sleep. It is even questionable if the human digestive system can absorb a biologically active form of the hormone, much less pass through the blood-brain barrier. Trials to evaluate oral melatonin's effectiveness in treating circadian rhythm disorders have shown mixed results. The study that would appear to show the most effectiveness compared melatonin + light therapy to a placebo. The melatonin + light group showed a much better response than the placebo group, but this doesn't answer the question if the light or the melatonin offered the benefit. Of the even fewer studies done to evaluate treating subjective complaints of "jet-lag", those that I have reviewed suffered from design flaws that make me question the results.

And it is not a pituitary hormone, it is a pineal hormone.

Bottom-line: oral melatonin is definately safe, but it's role in treating sleep disorders (depending on exactly what question the study addressed) has either not been clearly established or failed rigourous testing to show a difference from placebo.

Posted by
9079 posts

Tom I will personally pay for my own study on the effects of melatonin: That is I will pay for a bottle of melatonin from your nearest health food store or GNC. If after taking just one pill you think the stuff is a placebo it will never consume it again;)

Posted by
193 posts

That was the exact same schedule we used last year. We slept a little on the plane, then when we got to Murren we just tried to keep moving until after dinner. We couldn't keep our eyes open by 8:00 so we decided not to fight it. We woke up at about 7 am the next day and were ready for a full day of hiking in the Alps with no other side effects.
Have fun!

Posted by
12040 posts

After reviewing some of the literature, I stand corrected on two points- oral melatonin does show some effect at reducing sleep latency above placebos, but unlike most prescription sleep aides, it does not affect the depth of sleep (ie, it may help you fall asleep faster but it doesn't keep you from waking up). But because these studies were conducted in controlled, quiet environments, it is difficult to generalize the results to sleeping on a plane.

Second, there is some good evidence (I was not previously aware of this trial) that melatonin, when taken over a period of days, can help re-adjust the circadian rhythm disruptions caused by jet-lag faster than a placebo controlled group. The crucial difference between this trial and previous trials is that neither the treatment group nor the placebo group were exposed to any light above that which they would normally experience in an average given day. The differences between the two groups were not large, but did meet the requirements for statistical significance. Modafinil (brand name Provigil), however, has been much better studied for this and has shown clear superiority over both melatonin and a placebo.

Posted by
73 posts

What you're describing is not jet lag, it's just fatigue from pulling an all-nighter. There's a difference and most of the advice about jet lag doesn't really address this.

We just got back from a trip to France. I didn't sleep on the flight over because I'm just not capable of sleeping on planes. Maybe in first class, if I were so lucky, but not in coach. If you can sleep on a plane, do so for as long as you can. You need rest above all else.
Then, when you get there, work on addressing the jet lag that you'll experience the next few days. Walk around to get some morning sunlight, but don't push yourself.
If you're tired, do take a nap for an hour or so. It won't kill you and it won't make jet lag any worse. Remember, you're suffering from lack of sleep and sleep is the cure for that.
Then get up and walk around that afternoon. You don't have to spend every minute sightseeing. Take RS's advice and assume you'll be back someday.
Have dinner early, but still close to when the locals eat. Then go home and go to bed. Allow yourself 9 or 10 hours to sleep (set the alarm), then get up in the morning when the locals do.