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Jet Lag

I'm flying from Seattle to Paris, ten hour flight. I leave Seattle at 1:45 p.m., West Coast time, arrive at 8:35 a.m., Paris time. What can I expect in terms of jet lag and getting used to time difference? Any tips on making the adjustment go smoothly? Thanks so much.

Posted by
12040 posts

Seeing a lot of contradictory information? That´s because most experienced overseas travelers have developed their own routine from trial and error. What works for one person may or may not work for you, so... good luck.

Posted by
4411 posts

That's the truth! All I know is, for me, it's ain't pretty, it's actually a little painful, but in the end it's Paris!!! I adjust with a little 'espress', then later with a little 'vin', then a little bed.........AND, I don't like Fred: "...even though sleeping on the flight is easy..." ;-)

Posted by
136 posts

Well - the correct advice - don't drink alcohol on the plane, get some sleep, stay hydrated; What I do though, is just make myself stay up when I arrive...maybe take a bus trip around town and then go to bed early. I also recently read an article than stated that tart cherries contain the highest amount of melatonin (used to fight jet lag) found naturally. So I bought some dried cherries for my October trip to Europe.

Posted by
222 posts

I've flown to Paris direct from Los Angeles. I'm assuming you are flying direct, if your trip is taking 10 hours. That's a huge advantage over changing planes somewhere and adding hours to your total trip. But plan on being jet-lagged when you get to Paris. Try to sleep as much as you can on the plane, then hit the ground running in the morning in Paris. Do take it easy the first day, but try to stay awake until a normal Paris bedtime. You should feel a lot better by the second day there.

Posted by
9363 posts

Daniel, melatonin is only useful for jet lag because it helps you sleep on the plane. It doesn't keep you awake. It's a naturally occuring hormone that your body produces when it's time to sleep. Norma, as Daniel says, avoid alcohol, sleep as much as you can on the flight (you can catch those movies on the way back), and stay outside and awake as long as possible when you arrive. Try to stay up to as close to your regular bedtime as you can, and you should be fine the next day (though you may still go to bed a little early). I find that the excitement of a trip can keep me from sleeping, and melatonin tablets help me with that, both on the flight and while on the trip, if needed.

Posted by
29 posts

yes, i am flying directly from seattle to paris. and i'm not a big alcohol drinker so abstaining is not an issue. thanks so much for the advice. i appreciate it. or, as i will be saying a little bit over a month from now, merci bien.

Posted by
425 posts

Three to four days before starting my trip I progressively get up an hour early in the mornings. So that on the day I fly, I am getting up about 4 hours earlier than I normally would. Doing so really helps me sleep on the plane. Then as stated, hit the ground running! Stay outside as much as possible and let the sun do it's thing. I will admit that on arrival day I did slip back to the hotel for an hour nap in the afternoon. I had a long evening planned at the Spring Fest so I really needed the rest! From there it was smooth sailing.

Posted by
136 posts

Yes, I didn't mean to suggest that melatonin prevented jet lag without sleep: here's the article ** Recent research conducted by Russel J. Reiter, Ph.D, a nutrition researcher at the University of Texas Health Science Center and one of the world's leading authorities on melatonin, found that a handful of cherries contain more melatonin than what is normally found in the blood, helping your body get in sync with the new time zone while you travel. And cherries are believed to be one of the most concentrated sources of melatonin – bananas, corn and oats supply melatonin but in considerably smaller amounts. Research suggests melatonin works best when consumed one hour prior to your desired sleep time on the plane and for three or more consecutive evenings after your arrival, depending on the number of time zones crossed. Cherries are available year-round as dried and frozen cherries, and cherry juice, so they're easy to incorporate into your daily diet and travel agenda. Specifically, dried cherries are a convenient , portable and tasty way to get a melatonin boost on the plane.

Posted by
251 posts

I found earplugs and a sleeping mask along with sleep aids a big help for sleeping on the plane.

Posted by
14580 posts

Norma, What I do to combat jet lag is to sleep as much as possible on that 10 hour flight, which is same time span from SFO. I usual can count on six hours of sleep, no problem...absolutely no pills...and with a landing over there anywhere from 0830 to 1100, I am ready to go. Definitely sleep on the plane. Daniel - thanks for the info about the cherries, even though sleeping on the flight is easy, will bring them.

Posted by
81 posts

Good advice above. Just stay awake as long as you can after you land and the next day (and one more letter) you could be back to normal.

Posted by
219 posts

Norma, all the advice is good - we've tried them all. Here's the "formula", though, that has worked for us for the last 5-6 years. About 3 hours into your flight take an Ambien (not Ambien CR). You'll need a prescription but the generic is very inexpensive at Costco. PS, just to be sure you know how it works for you, take one at home before you leave. Anyway, approx. 15 minutes after taking a pill, you'll be out like a light - no dreams, just sleep. You'll wake up 4-5 hours later, have breakfast on the plane, and be refreshed and ready for your first day in Paris. Assuming you stay active that first day, you'll probably fall asleep quickly that first night but then wake up around 2 am because your body is still on Pac NW time. Take another Ambien - sleep for 4-5 more hours - and you'll be good for day 2 of your adventure and beyond. The same thought process applies when you return home.

Posted by
4411 posts

Norma, a most important part of the equation is to be packed well ahead of your departure, and have all loose ends taken care of in advance to the best of your ability. Staying up all night packing, panicked, rushing to the airport, is NOT a good way to start your trip. ON the airplane I immediately set my watch for 'Europe time' and I listen to my iPod - something very quiet and soothing (an adult lullaby LOL!), and just try to 'zone out' the best I can. There's no real sleeping for me, but I try to relax as much as possible. I DO have some wine, but I also drink from my water bottles like a fiend. I wear my neck pillow and eyeshade and bring a thin sheet-blanket and get comfy as soon as possible. THEN, I have a fighting chance at operating somewhat normally once I land in Europe. I'd advise against planning anything important that first day, and definitely nothing late at night (like a river cruise or classical concert). Do your best to be 'out-and-about' that first day (or two); perhaps just walking around your new neighborhood, a neaby park, an easy sight-seeing site - NOT climbing the Eiffel Tower LOL! Try to stay awake until 9:00 or 10:00 that first night. I also make sure I set my alarm for the next morning - nothing too early, but I try to get on a schedule as soon as possible.

Posted by
10307 posts

Unless you have a video camera on yourself, you might not know everything you've done while sleeping with Ambien. Some people on Ambien have driven, prepared and eaten meals, etc. while totally asleep. My mother gave it up after she had a conversation with my son and invited him to dinner. She had taken her pill an hour earlier and was totally asleep during the conversation. That could be dangerous on a plane if you are affected in this way.

Posted by
10344 posts

Ambien has been mentioned above, along with a 4 to 5 hour time frame. You'll want to get your doctor's advice and, in the meantime, be cautious about the 4 to 5 hours, which for some or perhaps many is not going to be quite enough, more like 6 to 7 hours of time to devote to sleep. The word on the street is that, especially as he's gotten a bit older, even Rick Steves uses ambien to help with jet lag.

Posted by
1878 posts

The bad news is, it takes time getting used to sleeping on a plane. The good news is, it's not as hard as you might think to sleep on a plane. Ears plugs and sleep mask are a must. Noise canceling headphones if you have them, but then you have to carry them around for your whole trip. (I used to use the headphones, but I broke them at one point and found that earplugs where almost as good). Personally I am chronically sleep deprived and it works for me to be totally worn out when I get on the plane. But I would not advise it unless you are used to erratic sleep patterns too. For me a window seat is essential for sleeping. In a pinch an aisle will work but not nearly as well. When you arrive, try and get as much natural light as possible. If you must, nap for an hour but not more. Natural light is your friend. You will probably wake up at 4am the first couple of nights and not be able to go back to sleep. Keep trying and if you can't sleep no matter what, get up ad enjoy the day as if nothing had happened. Something to look forward to: if you are like me, you will sleep like a baby on the way home. After vacation all of the tension is gone and I could sleep in a bathtub.

Posted by
11507 posts

Norma.. I fly from west coast too, and this is what will happen,, or it happens to me at least. I wake up at like 3 am,, first few days,, HUNGARY. Body thinks its meal time,, so , I always make sure I have a box of cookies or some other snack in room. I will munch on stuff for a few minutes, then fall back asleep. It does screw up my body clock for first two three days, and as I age it seems to get worse, but I just continue to live in the local time and try and ignore it.

Posted by
873 posts

Whether or not it affects jet lag upon arrival, I prefer to self-medicate on the plane (be it with alcohol or sleep aids), because of the immense anxiety I have about flying. It's either knock myself out or have panic attacks.

Posted by
2349 posts

Pat, I thought you always went to Paris-how do you wake up in Hungary? ;)

Posted by
333 posts

I've been traveling overseas from the West Coast for the last 25 years and I've managed to sleep about a grand total of 3 hours on a plane. I just cannot do it despite having very few sleeping problems normally. It's still hit or miss if I get jetlag but I try to get up by 3 am the week prior to flying to adjust to the local time. Not boozing on the plane helps but I have a tough time turning down a free drink :) I try to push through the day of arrival but on a lot of occasions I just give up, go to bed around 5-6pm, sleep 12-14 hours and get up in the morning local time. That usually does the trick. Any fun I get to have on arrival day is a bonus as I never plan on getting out of the hotel

Posted by
4132 posts

Search this forum for LOTS on this subject. But, many people think jet lag is caused by, or the same thing as, lack of sleep on the flight. It isn't! Resolving jet lag entails shifting your body's inner clock from one time zone to another. Melatonin can do this (for SOME people - if taken at the right time) whether you sleep on the plane or not (though it can help with this too); otoh a strong tranquilizer can knock you out on the plane without shifting your clock. Other things that can shift your clock are exposure to light that the right times, and diet.

Posted by
1976 posts

Hi Norma. It's also important to listen to your body. It is best if you can stay up until a reasonable bedtime. On my most recent trip (I flew from Newark to Hamburg), I couldn't sleep at all on the plane. I arrived in Hamburg at 7:30am, met my friend there, and was like WOW, I'm in Hamburg! I want to do A, B, C, D...but by 11:00am/12:00pm I had no energy, which had never happened to me before on my first day in Europe. We had to go back to my friend's apartment and I slept for 4 hours (2pm to 6pm). I really needed it and it was the best thing I could have done. I didn't sleep much that night because I was still jetlagged, but that's the way it goes sometimes. Pay attention to what you need and you'll be over jetlag in a day or so.

Posted by
9363 posts

Will, if you want to medicate yourself to be able to sleep on the plane, that's fine - for you. Ambien is a prescription drug with some disturbing side effects for some people, and it shouldn't be used when you only have a relatively short time to sleep (such as your 4-5 hours). Even though the "generic is inexpensive", you would have to factor in the cost of a physician's visit to get a prescription in the first place, too. And many people have advised not using drugs in case of an emergency on the plane, during which they want you to be alert.

Posted by
11507 posts

Karen,, I knew my bad spelling would get me in trouble,, LOL

Posted by
11507 posts

I didn't mention,, yes, I drug myself on plane. Melatonin,, which doctor actually recommended for one of my teens( he has some other issues) and .5 of an Ativan. I am not knocked out cold,, just mildly drowsy, but, best part is no "hangover" like feeling when I arrive. I am a nervous flyer anyways,, so being totally alert is not a good thing for me,, frankly, in most plane emergencies ( lets call them crashes) you can go down screaming or sleeping, haven't seen a big difference in survival rate! LOL I don't drink on plane either,, alcohol I mean.

Posted by
11507 posts

As Adam mentioned, there is a difference between travel fatique, and jet lag.

Posted by
552 posts

No one likes 25mg. of diphenhydramine with the meal service?

Posted by
11507 posts

Bill ,, now thats funny,, two birds with one stone, something so you don't throw up,, plus it knocks you out,, LOL

Posted by
552 posts

AND, it also stops the post nasal drip that I sometimes get from plane air. Once in Europe though, the first TWO nights are spent in a town that Rick recommends for ONE. That lets me do everything at spaced-out, half-speed for the first couple days.

Posted by
19 posts

You definitely need to try and get as much sleep on the plane as possible. I always get worked up before a trip and also have motion sickness so I take dramamine and pepto-bismol. I hydrate with water and caffeine free tea while waiting at the gate so I can relax a little bit. I also find that consuming healthier foods before a flight helps me to relax and de-agitate :) I hope that helps!

Posted by
18 posts

Different people have different reactions to time change. I personally believe it's better not to dwell on it or worry if you can't sleep and just focus on the excitement of the trip. I always change my watch to reflect time Europe time after I board plane. I know the advice is to avoid alcohol, however I also look forward to a drink to toast the holiday, a glass of wine, and always eat the meal and drink water as well. I always sleep a few hours or at least rest with happy thoughts of travel. On arrival, I focus on the excitement of being in Europe, and hit the pavement to see the city where I arrived, no matter what time of day the plane lands. I like to take a shower on arrival, change clothes and then enjoy the fresh air and just have an early night. I'm in my sixties, but this has been my method of travel to Europe for the past 40 years. It's all a personal choice and what works for you. I look at the whole experience, even the plane ride, as fun. I'm on vacation!

Posted by
21 posts

I flew from Albuquerque to D.C. to Munich and then a busride to a small village. Got to the village, checked in and walked around to familarize myself with surroundings. Had dinner and listened to a little jazz and crashed at 10:00 PM. What worked for me was the physical activity. Maybe it would work for you. I also moved around the plane a lot, to avoid deep vein thrombosis (DVT).