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Jet-Lag: how have YOU managed to lessen it?

PLease tell me what are your best/effective ways to lessen Jet-Lag. Leaving Tuesday (yeaaaaa!) from the USA to France. We want to maximize every day we're there by knowing how to best lessen the effects of jet lag. A funny story, last year we were in Paris and on day 0 (arrival) we stayed up until after supper, laid down and slept well. Day 1 we stayed up until 10 p.m., laid down to sleep, and awoke, WIDE awake at 11:30 p.m. and walked around Paris for 2 hours. Went back to sleep around 2 am and woke up at 3:30 p.m.... we had slept away one entire day of our vacation! Thanks!

Posted by
16445 posts

I've experienced this so many times I've given it a name: Phantom Time Zone Effect. Wake up at 3 am absolutely wide awake and ready to go. Have not figured out to fight it except by staying up to 11 pm each day until I'm on the right time. BTW, we might be on the same flight.

Posted by
12040 posts

"I've experienced this so many times I've given it a name: Phantom Time Zone Effect." So have doctors: Circadian Rhythm Dysfunction. More later, have to get back to work...

Posted by
12040 posts

OK, a little more info. Most people have developed their own routines over much trial and error. What works for me may not work for you. Plus, I don't try to "lessen" jet lag, I manage it and work around it. But it helps to understand the physiology involved. Most people have an internal clock (circadian rhythm) that helps to manage your sleep-wake cycle. Your circadian rhythm is imprinted by your regular habits and by the rising and falling of the sun everyday. This is why what people commonly refer to as "jet lag" is actually a combination of factors- your circadian rhythm is out of sync with the time zone, and you're probably tired from not sleeping well on the plane. You can't simply turn the circadian rhythm on and off at will (no matter what some over-the-counter supplements may claim). Rather, it takes up to a month to fully adjust, although most people won't feel much a differnece after 2-3 days. So, with that in mind, what are some things you can do? You can gradually adjust your bed and wakeup times by about 10-15 minutes a day for a few weeks to align your circadian rhythm closer to that of your destination, but this isn't practical for most people. You can expose yourself to sunlight when you arrive, but this will only slightly speed up the adjustment period. Probably most important is force yourself into the new time zone- go to bed at the correct hour, sleep through the night and force yourself up in the morning. A little pharmacology can help (ie, for when your body insists on waking up at 3 in the morning), but you should discuss this with your doctor.

Posted by
951 posts

I really do not get it on the way over....but on the way back to the states. Upon arrival, yes I am tired, but I am excited. So my remedy of adjusting and dealing with jet lag is to just suck it up and move around and eat and see sights and drink til its time to go to bed. I then take advil PM so I sleep thru the night or else I too get the wake up at 2am wide awake syndrome. And yes, I do count my first day as a sight seeing day......some posters do not. I may not have a quantum physics test planned for my first day but I do not waste my first day by just taking it easy.

Posted by
1976 posts

Like Kelly said, I don't have too much trouble with it in Europe (knock on wood! I'm leaving Thursday for Paris!). I try to make myself stay up until a decent hour (9:00 or 10:00) but if I really need a nap, I'll take it. I too have awakened at 2:00am, wide awake, and finally fallen asleep at 4:00am. After the first night, I'm tired but definitely on European time. The next night and morning I can usually go sleep and wake up at my normal times. Try to sleep on the plane. That seems to help with jet lag on the first day. Two years ago I flew to Hamburg and was unable to sleep on the plane (usually I get an hour, maybe 2). I was even more zonked than usual when I arrived and at 2:00 I was barely functioning so I took a 4-hour nap. That was probably too long. I heard you should nap according to your REM cycle (between 30 minutes and 1.5 hours), so you don't wake up feeling like you were drugged.

Posted by
2818 posts

OK, so about once a month we discuss jet lag and the result is always the same: it is different for different people and what works for one will not work for the next person.

Posted by
11798 posts

What works for me: 1. Reduce the time change as much as possible by going to bed/getting up steadily earlier in the month or so before your trip. Even an hour or two will make a difference. 2. When you get to the airport, forget local time at home. Change your watch and think only in local time at the destination. Instead of thinking it's still 6pm and I'm not tired, think it's nearly midnight, I better get some sleep. 3. Your flight over should be for sleep. Skip the drinks, in-flight entertainment, etc. Once the plane is on the way, try to get at least four hours of uninterupted sleep. 4. When you arrive, stay active until after dinner to a respectable bed time. The worst thing you can do is prolong the effects of time change by falling into a sleep during the day/wake up at night pattern. 5. Some people use a sleep aid on the plane and the first night in Europe. I have used one Excedrin PM tablet to help me sleep on the plane but didn't on my last trip and was fine.

Posted by
8274 posts

JP, Climb into bed early tonight and read yourself to sleep. Go even earlier every subsequent night to get yourself ready. Just try shifting yourself to an earlier rhythm before and then follow everyone else's advice for the flight and arrival. Bon voyage.

Posted by
2966 posts

Of course it's different for different people. But I probably experienced some of the worst jet lag on my only trip across (have yet to return to the states!) so since hte question is how have YOU managed to lessen it, here's what I will suggest you DON'T do. DON'T exhaust yourself prior to your trip. I didn't have a choice, what with 2 weeks notice to pack up my belongings, get rid of stuff, clean an apartment I'd lived in for 4 years, and get married and honeymoon all in 14 days - but when I got on the plane I had a ridiculous sleep deficit. That was mistake #1. Get plenty of rest before your trip. TRY to sleep on the plane. I can't (maybe with pharmacuetal help I could - I've never tried) so that messed me up too. DON'T go to bed early. On arrival day I was literally falling asleep at the table at an early dinner at 5:30 p.m. Went to our room and was asleep by 6:00 p.m. Bad, bad, bad. Woke up with a start at 2am and was unable to get back to sleep. Of course you're exhausted by the afternoon. Wasn't able to get out of this pattern for a WEEK. Bad news for people visiting for short timeframes. Based on this, when friends and family visit, I become a dictator of bedtimes. No one is allowed to go to sleep before 9-10 p.m. I usually find a way to get people out walking in the sun, or at least walking, in the afternoon and early evening when I know the tiredness will be hitting them hard, which helps them get a "second wind". I never plan anything early for the next day, preferring to let them sleep as late as possible (but they're always up by 8am). Still, no one has complained of jet lag thanks to my "rules". Everyone is firmly on European time by day 2.

Posted by
2966 posts

I know some people advocate a short nap, I'm on the fence about this. I'm not a napper by nature - it always takes me a long time to fall asleep, so when I finally do when napping I tend to fall into a deep sleep and feel "drugged" when I come out of it and am just out of sorts and grumpy and hating life. Most people apparently can nap without this problem so maybe short naps are a good idea for some. That said, I haven't given any of my guests the opportunity to nap, and most of them end up staying up far later than my recommended bedtime of 9-10 (usually til 11-1am) and everyone has said they feel fine and don't feel jet lagged the next day when they wake up at a reasonable time in the morning (always between 7 and 9 am, pretty ideal for vacation if you ask me) (My independent non-published study consisting of a statistical sample of 7 adults) So take that for what it's worth, which probably isn't much. Unless you're someone who typically naps, I don't think naps are a good idea to get yourself adjusted.

Posted by
4125 posts

I've had jet lag pretty bad, but had none on my last trip and got in a very full day of sightseeing on arrival. It was like getting an extra day in France. I do 3 things you could do that definitely help me. What they would do for you is another question. Namely: 1. Argonne National Labs jet-lag diet (with one omission); 2. As much as possible, manage exposure to light; 3. Melatonin. Notes: (1) the diet calls for cold-turkey on caffeine a week before departure (which I do) and a cup of strong coffee the evening of departure (which I do not do). (2) Sleep-mask darkness day of departure, lots of daylight (sunshine or overcast is all good) on arrival. (3) Melatonin is serious stuff (but VERY helpful at least for me), talk to an MD before using. As Tom says, jet lag has to do with your circadian clock. It's not especially about being fatigued from lack of sleep or from travel, though that can be a drag too. Many remedies that knock you out on the plane (booze, pills) do not help you with this and may make things worse. Contrariwise you can spend your entire time on the plane awake (but sitting or lying back, with sleep mask and ear plugs in place) and still do well in terms of jet lag, if you shift your internal clock. Everyone is different but in my case the steps I take make a profound difference.

Posted by
75 posts

Mine is not scientific either but on my first trip to Europe we took the overnight flight. The advise I received for jet lag and has served me well is to get as much sleep as you can on the flight, but when you land, get out in the sun as much as you can and let your body naturally adjust. Apparently being in the sun helps your body adjust. It's nothing tricky but it's worked for me every trip.

Posted by
1994 posts

My best experience was timing my arrival on my most recent trip for late in the day. We landed around 6 pm and by the time I got to my hotel,it was after 8. Had a light dinner and then headed to bed. Worked great; I slept and was fine the next day. Much better than the more typical morning arrival.

Posted by
12776 posts

Hi, I agree with getting as much sleep on the flight over. From Calif the flight is going to be at least ten hours, if not more, to LHR, Paris or Frankfurt. I aim to sleep at least 5-6 hrs., the more the better. If I can sleep on the train, sleeping on a flight is not much different. After the 6 hrs or so, you won't feel groggy upon arrival, which is usually in the morning.

Posted by
11613 posts

Sleeping on the flight over is good, setting your watch to local time is good, and don't forget to stay hydrated on the plane and once you land. I have the opposite problem - I can't get off European time when I get back, which is why I'm posting this at 4am. I've been back for a month. Not jet lag, but a different sleep pattern.

Posted by
46 posts

This is not a reply to every ones cure for jet lag. I bought a pack of NO-JET_LAG tablets from Magellan's, but have not had to nerve to try them. They are homepathic tablets that are suppose to prevent jet lag with no side effects. Has any one tried them? Do they really work? There doesn't seem to be any way to get around jet lag except time. Do the normal tourist activities, but try to stay alert as much as possible.
Jana

Posted by
2715 posts

Hi, We always fly overnight and arrive in Europe early in the morning. We stay out and awake (of course) until around 7pm. Get to sleep early (for us) around 9pm and the next day we're usually up around 6 or 7am and all is fine. We get maybe an hour or 2 of sleep, at best, on the plane. I think what helps is we plan, pack and have everything ready to go to the airport 2 days before leaving. Our last day and night at home is relaxing, uneventful and with no worrying about anything.

Posted by
8064 posts

I am one of those people who never can sleep on a plane, so my basic plan is just to tough it out. As soon as the plane takes off, I set my watch to the new time zone. Going to the US, I know my family will NOT let us go to sleep right after we get there, after not seeing us for so many years, so that option for a nap is always out. Travel day is just a day that is extra, extra long. Jet lag just affects me in that I am unusually tired, so we keep to a regular schedule, with regular wake-up and go to bed times. Coming back to Europe hits me harder, and this flight all night with no sleep is like the old days, when we partied all night and then had to stay awake the next day. Unfortunately, my last 2 trips, I have had to go to work on the same day I arrived. Talk about being useless on the job! Just kind of drifted around in a daze. At least on this trip to the US next month, I won't have to work as soon as I arrive back in Germany.

Posted by
403 posts

If life gives you lemons, make lemonade. Jet lag can be a sightseeing advantage!Having some sort of plan for what to do on the first day or two that you wake up super early can help mitigate the sense of "losing" sightseeing time. Through traveling with young kids, we have experienced many cities in the wee hours of the morning. We try to stick it out until 5 or so (when it's starting to get light.) We have found a creperie in Paris just opening up at 5:00, enjoyed being the only customers scarfing down bananas and Nutella under the heat lamps, and then wandered around the Pompidou fountains before walking into Notre Dame with NO LINE at 7:00 a.m. No one else was there. Same thing at St. Peter's in Rome (without the crepe). We have ridden the very first tram around the Ring in Vienna at 5:15 a.m., and walked the walls of Dubrovnik to see the sunrise. Jet lag is a super way to avoid lines at any place where arriving early is an advantage.

Posted by
403 posts

Another idea from my parents: they have a tradition in which they buy the most lucious pastry they see on their first day in Europe. They have it packed up to go, knowing that they will wake up at 3:oo a.m. They get up, split their pastry and go back to bed for a few more hours. My mom swears by this method for getting through that first nasty night. Works especially well in Paris, apparently.

Posted by
12040 posts

"I bought a pack of NO-JET_LAG tablets from Magellan's, but have not had to nerve to try them. They are homepathic tablets that are suppose to prevent jet lag with no side effects." If it's like every other product marketed as "homeopathic", then its been diluted down to almost nothing, so I doubt it has any benefit beyond a placebo effect.

Posted by
800 posts

We've changed from the never nap angle to always napping the first few days. But I agree with those who post about the "drugged" feeling they get, often from taking too long of a nap. I set my phone alarm for 1 hour. Even considering that I don't instantly fall asleep, the short bit of quiet really helps me to stay up to a decent bedtime and usually wake up at a "normal" hour as well. My husband though sleeps for 2 hours the first day and takes Ambien for the next few nights in order to get to sleep and stay asleep. We also do the pre-trip routine of getting up very early, and try to sleep as much as possible on the way over-no movies!

Posted by
2818 posts

No Jet Lag pills are hooey ( but some people swear by them so there must be a placebo effect. Like all homeopathic remedies they are so dilute there is no active ingredient in them. A good thing as one of the ingredients is ipecac!!!! The dilution is 30C, which in homeopathic jargon means that they have been diluted I part in 100, 30 times. That means, if I do the math right, the amount is one in ten to the minus 60. What you are really getting in the pill is the filler, probably magnesium stereate.

Posted by
46 posts

Thanks Sasha The NO JET LAG package is going in the trash!! The real cure is to tough it out for a day. I feel for people that have never traveled or had jet lag.
Jana

Posted by
2818 posts

Jana-don't trash it; you should return it (unopened) to where you bought it and complain. They should not be selling this stuff. It must be protected as a homeopathic medicine, otherwise there would be a lawsuit against it like there was against the makers of Airborne, the phony cold preventative.

Posted by
9363 posts

I agree, return the No Jet Lag pills to Maqellan's and get your money back!

Posted by
1878 posts

I guess you have landed by now, so you have already made your decision about how to handle jet lag. But here is what we do: after we land, we check into our hotel and have a nap for only an hour, two at the most. We have never had any trouble getting to sleep that night, maybe because I am always sleep deprived and my wife can sleep just about anywhere, anytime. After the nap we walk around town, have dinner, then go back to bed. Just staying up is not a realistic option for either one of us. I admire anyone who can do it, but for us after twelve or so trips to Europe, we have only managed to do that once or twice.

Posted by
3580 posts

I have tried the remedies and now don't use the homeopathic, etc. What I do is take my usual sleeping pill on the plane a couple of hours into the flight (just after meal service). I usually sleep a couple of hours or more. I make a point of eating something and having coffee on the plane and after landing when the flight arrives in the am. (I almost always fly into London and arrive 6-7am). This helps stimulate and re-set my internal clock. Since my hotel room usually isn't ready at least until noon, I spend the morning moving to the hotel, stowing my luggage, walking around in the daylight, and eating a meal. Often, this has been in the Kings Cross area, since my hotel is there and I plan a trip to Paris the next day. After checking into my room, I rest or try to nap for a few hours. Then I go out again, have another meal and go back to my room. This first day I don't try to do any real tourist stuff like visiting museums. I feel fragile and somewhat disoriented, so stay safe and careful while moving around on foot. Around 10pm, I take my sleeping pill and usually sleep well for at least a few hours. I sleep and doze until morning. After that first night, I'm fairly much on European time and feel normal during the remainder of the trip. Re-entry jetlag is another matter. I try to get back on my regular schedule but often feel disoriented for a few days, and up to a week.