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Changing your body clock

What recommendations to others have for making the time change from the Pacific time zone to Europe? I have a 10 hour flight from Salt Lake City to Paris, which leaves in the early evening and lands in Paris in the morning.

Posted by
6372 posts

You could do a search on 'jet lag' and then filter by Travel Forum and choose responses less than 1 year old. There have been several long threads on this subject.

Posted by
12804 posts

Your flight may be a little longer than ours from Minneapolis although we rarely get one that' s direct. Neither of us can sleep on a plane but lag hasn't been a big issue as the "We're here!" adrenaline kicks in. Everyone handles it differently but we get out of the airport, get to the hotel, dump the bags and spend the day on our feet to stay awake. Coffee helps!

Bedtime comes a bit early on Day 1 but getting onto the local time zone as quickly as possible has been our strategy.

Posted by
1556 posts

Ditto what Nancy said - though my quick two cents: start getting up earlier about a week before you leave until you're on East Coast time zone schedule. Sleep (if possible) on the flight. Hit the ground running in Paris, get out in the fresh air and day light and try to stay awake until 7 p.m. Paris time. If you must, take a one hour nap mid-day (but set an alarm and don't sleep more than an hour). It works for me in one hour earlier on the West coast , though coming home is a real disaster because I do no prep work on the return end (my own fault)!

Posted by
653 posts

Following Rick Steves' advice, I have had good results taking Ambien (for which you need an Rx from your Dr.) so that I can sleep on the flight, then staying awake after landing in Europe by being fairly active and drinking coffee. Then I go to bed early, and next day feels pretty normal. Granted, I am on the east coast, and so have a shorter flight than westerners; but with Ambien--kind of a wonder drug as far as I'm concerned--you would just get that much more sleep coming from Utah. If you do this, make sure you pack a good travel pillow.

Posted by
14458 posts

Try to get as much sleep on the flight as you can. At least with a 10 hour night flight, you'll have several hours of uninterrupted time (between dinner service and breakfast service). Avoid caffeine, take pills (OTC or prescription), wear something comfortable, maybe slippers (you'll want to take your shoes off), earplugs, travel pillow.

Posted by
11613 posts

If you wear a watch, set it to your destination time as soon as you get on the plane. Drink lots of water, walk around during the early part of the flight, try to sleep once it gets dark.

I never take OTC drugs or sleep aids when traveling, since I don't take them at home. Try them out before you take them during your flight, not eveyone reacts the same way.

Posted by
1005 posts

Rick is right. Ambien works for me on these long flights. I also used a sleep mask and a travel pillow. I also take Ambien when I wake up in the middle of the night in Europe and find that my body clock thinks it's time to get up. It really helps get me reset to European time. Ask your doctor if it's right for you.

Posted by
27 posts

I travel to Europe frequently from the east coast of the U.S. I stop drinking caffeine and alcohol 48 hours prior to flying, don't drink any on the flight, take melatonin as soon as I get on the plane, and try to sleep on the flight. I also try to drink water on the flight to stay hydrated. As soon as we land I have a cup of coffee. We get our bags to where we are staying and start moving. We resist the urge to lie down and nap. We try to get to bed early that night. By the next day there is no jet lag.

Posted by
12040 posts

I too use Ambien for the indications the posters have mentioned. It's great for sleeping on the flight, and for those times when your body thinks it's still in a different time zone.

However, if you do decide on this route (obviously, after talking to your doctor, and not a friend with extra pills), give it a trial run at home first before going "live" on a plane so that you know in advanced exactly how it will affect you. And absolutely do not mix it with alcohol or take too much. This can cause what flight attendants have called "ambien zombie syndrome", which is a weird waking dream state. It's harmless and wears off with the drug, but it cause can bizarre behavior that may upset fellow passengers. And afterwards the people to have no memory of the events.

Posted by
12400 posts

Hi,

I believe part of "surviving" the ten to 11 hour flight is psychological. Every trip I made over there departed from Calif, all from SFO, once from LAX and once from Oakland with a stop in Bangor, Maine. All the other flights over, except that from Oakland, were direct. It's best to land when it is morning over there. That makes it easier to adjust, mentally and physically. I don't take any sort of pills to induce sleep, tried that homeopathic pill from New Zealand (No Jet Lag ?) twice, found out it wasn't needed since I would asleep anyway. Use the neck pill, if that helps.

If you don't get jet lag at all, all the better. I don't anymore, ie since after having turned 50. In my forties I did get jet lag upon arrival. Age might be factor also. In my twenties I did not get it. Not everyone after a transatlantic flight from the west coast is jet lagged upon landing. That depends on the person. I went over the first two times at 21 and 23 not knowing what jet lag was, had not even heard of the term in 1971. Main advice here, as also pointed out above, is get as much sleep as possible on the flight and simply relax. I aim for six hrs., if more, even better. With the flight dinner I have a little red wine, and at the end one cup of coffee. That has no effect on my falling asleep, but don't take that if you normally don't at home.

Posted by
3500 posts

We go to the hotel for a quick shower and then spend as much time as possible outside in sun light. A fairly early evening meal and then to bed (also fairly early) and we're back in sync with the local time the next morning.

Posted by
8672 posts

I'm guessing you are taking that nice direct Delta flight that gets in around 1130A or so. If you land on time you'll probably be to your hotel by 2 to 3. That is good because you can probably check in right away instead of having to just leave your bags. If you are hungry-ish go find a late lunch with some caffeine, then walk around. Paris is a great walking city, so if you are in the neighborhood of the Eiffel Tower or near the Seine, go walk a loop. I am always an early to bed gal, so I would probably have a snack around a normal dinner time for me (6-7PM) then head back to the hotel to shower and go to bed. I know others try to stay up til 9 or 10 but I can't do that at home so NO WAY can I do that when jet lagged, lol!!

You may have a nice surprise and find you are not feeling tired or weird at all. Or on one occasion I have been so tired and jet lagged (plus it was pouring rain) I went against all the normal recommendations you read and went to sleep without an alarm, got up about 7PM had a Clif bar and a bottle of water and went back to sleep until morning.

Have a wonderful time!

Posted by
2349 posts

Another point of view- I need a nap that first day. I'll drop my bags, have lunch, walk a bit, and go back when my room is ready. Then, a shower and nap, or nap and shower. I set an alarm, and don't sleep more than an hour. Then more walking or sightseeing, a dinner when I feel like it, and probably an earlier than usual bedtime. I take a single Benadryl at night. I'm on local schedule right away.

In my 20's I powered through the first few days, and then, boom, jet lag hit me with a vengeance. I felt exhausted and physically ill. I slept for several hours and felt a little better, but didn't really feel on local schedule for a week.

Some people will tell you that a nap is the worst thing you can do. It works for me and others. Don't be afraid to sleep a bit to refresh yourself. Do set an alarm, and make yourself get up. You don't want to take a 4 hour nap.

Posted by
894 posts

I come from the central time zone, so have two hours less of a time difference. There are no direct flights for me though, so I always have something like an hour and a half flight, a wait at another airport, then an eight hour flight. I have yet to find a way to make myself sleep on the flight. The first day there is always rough, but I am able to deal with it just because I am so happy to be there. I stay awake until 8 or 9 pm the first day, and then go to bed. Usually by the 2nd day I am fine. Some people do better taking a nap on the day they arrive. I tried that once and it made it worse for me. I then couldn't sleep well that night and was still tired the next day.

Posted by
6182 posts

Repeating what Chani, Zoe and Lisa C. have said. Start adjusting you clock a few days before. One thing I've read is that your body actually has several clocks - each organ has its own schedule, like your stomach expecting meals at certain times, your intestines planning your movements, glands start secreting, etc. So just adjusting to the sleep schedule is not enough. Know what time it is in your destination, and start moving up your bed time. Change meal and drink schedules a few days ahead. On the plane, re-set your watch and know its already late in the day at your destination, so eat lightly, avoid dehydrating drinks, settle-in, and try and sleep instead of watching the movies and chatting the night away.

I've surrendered to the need for a nap on arrival once, and paid for it dearly for the next 5 days. Maybe you can get away with it.

Posted by
12400 posts

H,

If you find going from west to east gives you a much higher chance of jet lag than vice versa, the one big temptation is resist watching the movies, even if it's one you've waited to see, etc. Admittedly, I've done that when I know better is to try to sleep and get those 6 hrs on a 10 plus hour flight. Use the eye patch and/or neck cushion, just anything short taking any sort of pill to help in falling asleep. On the flight back , east to west, say CDG to SFO or FRA to SFO, I don't care if I'm jet lagged, most often it doesn't happen, a few time it has. That's when I watch the movie.

Posted by
21356 posts

Unfortunately you have to do some experimenting to see what works best for you. There are no absolutes. The recommendation to not take a nap is no more valid than staying up and going to bed early. Everyone suffers from jet lag (medical research) but the degree varies. We need to shift eight hours and over the years have developed a good system that works very well for US. Our first experiences were to stay up, walk in the sun, kept moving, have an early dinner and go to bed early. The major problem of us was the struggle to stay awake especially while having dinner. Didn't have any problem going to bed early -- BUT -- we normally sleep around 7, 7.5 hours. So, we go to bed around 8 to 9 and that meant that we were wide awake around 3 or 4 am. That didn't solve the problem. Then one year we accidentally took an unplanned hour and a half nap. Woke totally refreshed, had a very pleasant dinner (no struggle to stay awake) and retired around 11 and awake the next morning at our regular time. We now routinely take an hour and half nap around 2,3 pm. Set the alarm for two hours but always awake naturally around the hour and half mark. The best thing we ever discovered by accident.

We have expanded our routine to include time shifting two to four hours prior to departure. We will start a couple of weeks prior to departure simply getting up first 30 mins earlier, then an hour, than an hour and a half, etc., and, of course, going to bed equal amount of time earlier and adjusting meal schedules. Depending on other activities some years work better than others. However, on the day of departure we try to function on the time schedule for our destination. If are scheduled to arrive in Europe at 9am that is 1 am our time. We will try to get up around 3 am or so, exercise, eat meals at 4, 9, and 4pm or something close. Since our direct flights leave around 7 pm, we will go to the airport mid afternoon and have a nice, leisurely meal at one of the better airport restaurants. By that time, we are physically tired, well fed, and 30 mins after wheels up we have eye shades on, ear plugs in, and shoes off and as comfortable as we can be. We ignore everything on the plane and try our best to sleep some. About an hour or so prior to landing the crew wakes up the plane and serve a light breakfast, coffee, etc. We participate, and try to freshen up as best we can. On the ground we check in to our hotel, go outside for a walking around orientation, maybe a light lunch and finally back to the hotel for our mid afternoon nap, evening dinner, and in bed by 11. We will still have a little jet lag the next day but it is min and by the second day are pretty well adjusted.

This system works for us and we are better with the time shifting since we retired. But the two keys for us is the nap and following local time as close as we can on the day of departure.

Posted by
2170 posts

I'll be making the 11 hour direct flight from SF to Paris and this will be a first for me--leaving at my usual preferred time of 2 pm, but arriving at 10:30 am--I've had good luck jet lag-wise with my usual arrival of mid to late afternoon, staying moderately busy--exploration of my neighborhood, a bite to eat and maybe squeezing in a small museum or other site. 10:30 is going to make for a very long first day and while I'll nap a bit on the plane, I'm curious to see how long I hold up on the ground.

Posted by
1051 posts

I definitely agree with Tom. If you are taking Ambien for the first time, try it at home first. Definitely don't plan on driving for 8 hours. I had a bad reaction to Ambien and would not have wished it on anyone. I know others who take it without any bad symptoms. Definitely get out in the sun when you first arrive. It will help you establish your biorhythms to the new time zone.

Posted by
2037 posts

Funny you should ask:

http://www.wsj.com/articles/study-points-to-a-way-to-prevent-jet-lag-while-you-sleep-1454966199

JET LAG BASICS

Our internal circadian clocks cycle roughly every 24 hours, affecting everything from sleep to mood, immune system and metabolism.

It’s harder to fly west to east than east to west because it’s harder for the body to shift its circadian clock earlier than later.

The body naturally adjusts to a new time zone at a rate of about one hour a day.

Current strategies for minimizing jet lag include taking melatonin pills, intentionally exposing oneself to continuous light (or withholding exposure), and sticking to specific sleep schedules before and after a trip.

Adjusting the body’s circadian rhythm could improve the health of shift workers, those with seasonal affective disorder and even teenagers whose school start-time doesn’t align with their natural circadian tendency to go to bed late and wake up late.

Posted by
12040 posts

Unfortunately you have to do some experimenting to see what works best for you. There are no absolutes. The recommendation to not take a nap is no more valid than staying up and going to bed early. Everyone suffers from jet lag (medical research) but the degree varies.

What Frank said. Everyone who's made this trip more than a few times has developed their own routine. Personally, I don't fight jet lag, I manage it and build it into my schedule. Ambien's nice to help me sleep on the plane, but it doesn't shift my circadian rhythm.

Posted by
21356 posts

I like the phrase, "managing jet lag." I probably will steal that phrase in the future because that is really what you are doing. The idea of time shifting should not be overlooked. Obviously far easier when retired but even when working we could easily shift about three hours. And anything is a great help. Now if I could just figure out a system that works well coming home.

Posted by
6 posts

Thanks for the great advice. Any suggestions about changing your body clock when I make the 9 hour transition coming back to the west coast from Europe?

Posted by
8672 posts

I know the experts usually say jet lag is worst traveling east, but really I have the worst time coming back home. This last year I made myself get out and walk in the sun the next few days after I returned home. I'm retired so that is not a problem for me but if you have to go back to work I suggest taking a walk outside during your lunch, if you can. I felt the sunlight did help me with the transition back to Pacific time.

Posted by
18064 posts

There is a difference between circadian desynchrony (true jet lag) and travel fatigue. If you flew from NY to Lima, Peru, a flight taking 11 hours with one stop, you would be in the same time zone and not experience circadian desynchrony, but you would certainly have travel fatique. On the other hand, if Scotty could beam you instantly to Europe, you would not experience any travel fatigue, but you would experience circadian desynchrony. When you fly from the west coast to Europe, you experience both.

Unfortunately, most of the schemes described above only treat travel fatigue, but it is probably easier to deal with circadian desynchrony if you aren't also fatigued. Drinking plenty of liquids helps, since not drinking in the dry air of and aircraft cabin produces dehydration which exacerbates fatigue. Getting some sleep also helps, but most European flights get there when it's about midnight back home. How much sleep can you get before midnight. Then essentially, you have to stay awake from midnight until morning back home. I once had to be in another city, an eight hour drive from home, at 8 AM, so I tried going to sleep in the late afternoon and getting up at midnight to drive eight hours. That did not work very well.

As for getting over circadian desynchrony, the onlly thing that really works is getting out in the sunshine when it's dark back home. That means getting plenty of sunshine between about 8 AM and 4 PM there. After the sun comes up back home, being in the sun in Europe isn't going to help.

I remember on my first trip to Europe, my co-worker and I were sitting on a bench in a hospital hallway waiting to talk to a physician. With nothing else to do while waiting, I started timing my pulse rate. I don't remember the exact rate, but it was very low. I said to my co-worker, "We don't know it, but we're asleep."

As for me, I find it difficult to sleep in a big room full of people, particularly if it's not yet my bedtime. But a few glasses of wine help. I know, the "experts" all say, "no alcohol", but the wine works for me. It helps me relax at home; it helps me get to sleep early on the plane. Then, after arrival, I try to get as much exposure to sunlight as I can during the middle of the day. A walk outside is better than sitting in a train. Finally, I find a short nap just before dinner refreshes me and helps me stay up all the way to normal bedtime in Europe. On several occasions, I've gone into a spa on my first full day in Europe, and somehow that's helped my get over jet lag.

Posted by
1147 posts

We travel west coast to Europe and going to Europe is no problem its coming home when jet lag hits us.
I love overnight flights, it really does not matter when I go to bed as long as I get 8 hours in I am good to go. I totally loose track of time when we are flying, I could be sleeping 2am-10am (my time) and not even know it. We hit the ground running and don't stop till it is a normal time to go to bed to get 8 hours of sleep again.