How To Fight Jetlag

I've decided that perhaps I would be super awesome at having a baby. Not because of any increasing maternal instincts or anything, but because the first thing people always tell you about having a baby is how sleep-deprived you're going to be, and I have become rather adept at handling sleep deprivation over the years that I've traveled. Not that I've become adept at handling it well, you understand---unless snapping crankily and then weeping at AT&T commercials counts, which I rather suspect it doesn't---but I have at least learned how to operate while starved for sleep, and I think that's got to count for something. Like now, for instance: I've been up since 5:30am, my body thinks it's three o'clock in the morning, and this blog post doesn't even read like I just took fifteen consecutive tequila shots and a tab of acid, does it? Even though that's kind of how I feel, or at least how I'd imagine one would feel if one ever took fifteen consecutive tequila shots and a tab of acid, the maximum number of consecutive tequila shots I've ever taken being two and the maximum number of tabs of acid I've ever taken being zero.

All this is a long way of saying that I'm back from my trip---hello!---and really rather tired and discombobulated. Not as tired and discombobulated as I was when I arrived in England, though, and found that the tiredness and discombobulation was having a rather alarming effect on my brain, particularly on the highly specific bit of my brain that controls what words are the right ones to use to avoid looking like a crazy person. For example, in the first few hours after my arrival in England, I:

  • Gestured at my sister's new shirt and said "I love your new...candy."

  • Tried to find a plate by asking "Where would I find a...costume?"

  • Exclaimed happily, upon seeing that my mother had made apple crumble, my favorite dessert: "Yes! Brussels crumble!"

(I mean, Brussels crumble? Can you EVEN? Would that be, like, a sugary, flaky dessert made from Brussels sprouts? A Belgian delicacy? I shudder to think.)

Anyway, my favorite way to handle jetlag is pretty much just to muscle through it, although I am going to say something fairly controversial now, and it is this: most people tell you that when you arrive somewhere new, you should try and stay awake and fight the urge to sleep until it's actually bedtime in your new country, and I used to adhere to this school of thought too, but you know what, every time I've ever done that, it's backfired on me and I've ended up so tired and miserable that I've wanted to punch someone hard in the boob, and then when I've finally let myself crash at 9pm or so, I've woken up just a few hours later, headache-tired and yet simultaneously somehow wide awake.

And so I've made a new rule: if you feel a little rotten upon arrival, nap for an hour, and then get up and push through. Trust me, this works, or at least it works for me. Last week, for instance, I landed in London at 11am, was home by 12:30pm, napped from 1pm to 2pm, and then woke up ready to fight through to bedtime and go to sleep at a normal hour. And bingo: jetlag averted for the whole trip. This tends to work best if you land before noon---when you're likely to be feeling grottiest anyway, considering you probably spent the night sleeping (or "sleeping") on a plane---which even spurred me to make up a handy little rhyme about it. Are you ready for this?

"If you land before midday, a snooze should be okay."

I know, I can't believe I admitted to that either. Nerd alert! It's like I have Rhymezone bookmarked. Oh wait.

Huh. Well. This was going to be a post about England and my adventures therein, but I seem to have written a whole bunch about jetlag instead, and in the process I feel that I have actually become delirious, so I shall leave it here and we will visit England tomorrow---not literally, that would take a bloody long time, and also you probably couldn't get the time off work with such short notice---and instead I shall ask you if you have any handy jetlag-fighting tips of your own. My other ones are basically to drink a lot of water on the plane and sleep as much as you can---both pieces of advice I ignored on this last trip, by the way, opting instead to guzzle diet coke and chain-watch my way through Julie & Julia (enjoyed), An Education (very much enjoyed), and It's Complicated (well, enjoyed John Krasinski). Which means presumably you have better advice than I do. I mean, I'm so tired I don't even know what I'm saying anymore. I need to go and eat some Brussels crumble. Served on whatever costume I can find in the dishwasher.

Apr 07, 2010

I'm all for the minor snooze as long as you have someone who's determined to get you up, and won't let you sleep through until one am local time because you snarled at them and said "If you don't let me sleep I will DISEMBOWEL you"

My long plane trips used to involve drinking as much alcohol as possible (hey, I was young!) so the first two days anywhere tended to involve a lot of sleep, and getting the getting-up time was all I needed to get right. I don't recommend this as a way to avoid jetlag, though.

My big tip for sleeping when you're feeling awake is to read until sleepy. NO TV, even if you've been starved of those ads for Horlicks or Bovril or Rowntrees or whatever it is you've missed.

Apr 07, 2010

Well, I can't sleep on planes, and I can't nap, so...that pretty much meant I needed a sleeping prodigy of a baby to get me through newbornhood, since I HAD to stick to a somewhat normal sleep schedule lest I put the BABY in the dishwasher. The baby who, you should know, sometimes punches you in the boob with no warning and for no good reason.

Apr 08, 2010

I also endorse sleeping tablets. Yes, I know. But they really help sometimes. Let's say you can stay awake the whole day, the last thing you want is to only sleep at night for an hour or so: take a small amount of a prescribed sleeping tablet, sleep the whole night and wake up the next day like you've never left home. Amazing.

For the record, I don't pop sleeping tablets normally - strictly jetlag only!

Apr 08, 2010

Lots of water, as much sleep as possible on the plane (benedryl aided sleep at times) followed by a little bit of powering through. After the last trans-atlantic flight, I took a shot nap and it REALLY helped.

During one of my first encounters with serious jet lag, I offered to help friends prepare dinner. They handed me a red pepper and a sharp knife. Bad idea.

Apr 08, 2010

Im in the midst of the exact opposite jet lag as you right now. We came back from California to Norway yesterday. Ugh.

Im of the old school of thought of "power through it!" but man it always depends. For me it depends on east to west or west to east, Ive always thought east to west was easier because you're more inclined to get up in the morning and go to bed at night even if bed at night means 9pm after zoning in and out of the conversation for the last hour.

Routine though is the biggest thing, if I have to get up and work or something Im better quicker. If on the other hand I can nap every afternoon at 2-4 I will and Ill never recover.

Apr 08, 2010

You slay me, Holly Burns! Brussels crumble is just too much!

Apr 08, 2010

This post is lovely. You crack me up.

Apr 08, 2010

The problem with a newborn is that it's not just one day of sleep's day after day after day. It starts to add up. Thankfully by about 6 weeks it gets better.

Apr 08, 2010

I am also a fan of the one hour nap. My husband, however, is the worst napper in the history of ever, and the experience of trying to get him up after that one hour is horrible enough to make me want to give up and just push through without napping.

Apr 08, 2010

I'm a horrible napper, too. Tried the one-hour nap thing when I was in India a few months ago, and one hour stretched into three... and then four... and then next thing you know, it was three a.m. and I was wide awake. Eeee.

I read an article awhile back that recommended drinking LOTS of water on the plane (to echo commenter CarrieLyn), to not eat the plane food (guess you'd bring your own healthy things?), and then, if you're active and already have a fitness routine, to fight the tiredness and make yourself work out as SOON as you arrive. Not sure if I'd be able to do that, but the guy said it worked.

Apr 08, 2010

You are so silly! I love it!

Apr 08, 2010

Yeeeeeeeah. My last trip across the pond I flew business class. So my tips are
Let the flight attendant refill your champagne/wine glass as many times as she wants. Then lay your bed flat and pass out until 20 minutes before you land at Heathrow. Use the little moisturizers and toothbrush, whip hair into a pony and bounce off the plane refreshed. *ahem*

Apr 08, 2010

I have only taken 3 flights to vastly different time zones in my life, and I have never heard any real wisdom about how to avoid jetlag, but I like to think I've discovered a trick to combat it since I have never experienced jetlag. As soon as I arrive at my destination and get settled in, I take a shower to wash off the transAtlantic flight ICK, and then I take a nap. For about, oh, 2 hours. I wake up and I feel like a new human being.

Then, when I get home, I do the exact same thing - shower & nap. Unless I get home late, like say 10pm, in which case I take the shower and go to bed and sleep through the night. Voila! I've never had jetlag. (But this may only work for me, I don't know.)

Amy --- Just A Titch
Apr 08, 2010

This post made me laugh; however, it also renewed my love for the word "grottiest." Such a great word!

Yes, I am a nerd. SORRY.

Apr 08, 2010

When I went to London on study abroad a few years ago, I did just that. My sister, on the other hand, laid down for a nap at the same time I did and slept through until the next morning.

On the other hand, she had JUST finished her freshman year of college, so she probably needed the sleep.

Apr 08, 2010

I've only traveled overseas once in my life (I know, 'tis sad). But it was from SF to Japan. So quite a long flight and crazy time change. Anyway, the whole push through thing did not work for me either.

Also, I went with work, when I worked for the 49ers, and basically we played a night game in Japan, got on a plane and flew back to SF. And then when we landed in SF, my boss made us go to the stadium and do work. The worst part about all of that? I hadn't showered or brushed my teeth in like over a day! It was disgusting!

Apr 08, 2010

Amen! I'm glad you said that because after about a dozen or so of those kinds of flights I would also recommend a short nap. The key is to keep it that short and actually get up even though you might be completely delirious when you do. I can't do sleeping tablets, though. I sleep but when I wake up I feel completely unrested. When I'm adjusting to a new time zone I usually take magnesium before bed to help me sleep through the night and B12 in the morning for a little extra energy.

Apr 08, 2010

Seriously, your blogs are like my writings when I'm on serious drugs. And I don't mean that in a bad way. I wish I could be that clever all the time.

Locusts and Wild Honey
Apr 08, 2010

Yes, yes, yes! I could not agree more!

I NEVER power through. I nap, get up again, and then make it till bedtime in my host country. And I always sleep through the night no sweat.

So good to have you back. My god, I missed you.

Apr 08, 2010

I'm trying to think of how I have combated jet lag in my long flights- and all I have memories of are thoughts of wine and Ambien. I'm taking this to mean that I usually drink wine and take Ambien. This is NOT generally what the Dr will recommend. But I'm still alive.

I worked nights for 5 years- I was in a permanent state of jet lag. Lots and lots of naps. And I suppose wine and Ambien.

Patty V
Apr 08, 2010

Punch someone hard in the boob? That line made me laugh out loud. Sitting at my desk at work with people all around. Try explaining that one!

Apr 08, 2010

"I've decided that perhaps I would be super awesome at having a baby. Not because of any increasing maternal instincts or anything, but because the first thing people always tell you about having a baby is how sleep-deprived you're going to be, and I have become rather adept at handling sleep deprivation over the years that I've traveled." - Someday when you have a baby you are going to think back/link back to this quote and you're going to laugh and laugh.

Apr 08, 2010

I totally subscribe to that theory! My friend and I figured it out when we were traveling together. It worked well on a trip from DC to New Zealand, and again from DC to Italy. It's like hitting the reset button or something.

Apr 08, 2010

I think it totally depends on where you are flying. When I flew from the states to China often, it was best to stay awake until bedtime, but I agree with the nap for Europe.

Apr 09, 2010

I complete agree with your tips for avoiding jet lag. However, landing at Heathrow at 11 and being home 90 minutes later??? This is a tip you need to share. :) Usually it takes me just that amount of time to find my luggage when it's not been lost by the airline.

Apr 09, 2010

I drink lots of water or as much as possible on the plane, try to sleep, the night flights let you sleep better then the day flights.
I try to stay up as long as possible, then crash. I usually feel pretty good the next day, but end up going to bed early like 9:30 at night. Oh by the way we travel NY to Nice.

Nothing But Bonfires
Apr 09, 2010

Gill, I know, it was crazy! It helped that I was one of the first rows in economy, speed-walked once I got off the plane, then sailed through immigration and found my bag waiting for me on the carousel when I went through. Couldn't believe it either! 40 minute drive to Farnham with no traffic and I was in the door.

jennifer in sf
Apr 09, 2010

When I went to Germany last year I was basically awake for 24 hours because I couldn't sleep on the plane and there was a museum exhibit closing that day that I was dying to see. I started to think everyone around me was talking in English. And they most definitely were not.
So next time I think I'll try the nap approach.

Apr 09, 2010

I went to London for the first time last May and wanted to DIE from the jetlag! We got to the hotel around 3:30 pm and promptly went to sleep. I cannot sleep on planes and was so tired I felt sick, so I had to sleep. So then of course we woke up at like 11:00 pm starving and wide awake.

I then suffered through the next 3 nights on about 2 hours of sleep each night and massive stomach issues from it. It was really awful. I will never go to sleep during my "awake" hours again when I take a trip like that!

Apr 09, 2010

I have found that the more I travel and the older I get, the worse jet lag has gotten. It's so weird. Shouldn't I be used to it? But no. It's more like I've used up my lifetime total of dealing with it.
I think the power nap idea is good, personally. But jet lag is just evil, sadistically invented in the pit of hell. It makes no sense. If I don't have jet lag and am tired at 3 p.m., I can sleep. So why can't I sleep w/jet lag just cuz my body thinks it's 3 p.m.?

Apr 12, 2010

As frequent travelers across the pond and elsewhere, we also maintained that staying up was the best (and ONLY!) way to fight jet lag. But on our most recent trip to Brussels (which you also mention in this post!) my lovely non-napping hubby declared that he needed a nap because he was seeing double and becoming increasingly cranky. We napped for one hour (no more!) and were good to go until 11pm that night. It totally works. :)

Apr 13, 2010

I read this hungrily given how badly my trip last fall to Belgium went due to the jet lag, but I think I must have special problems, because even though I was exhausted when we arrived around 8am, and I decided to throw caution to the wind and take a short nap, I COULD NOT FALL ASLEEP. We then explored the city a little and stayed up til a very respectable hour and then went to bed...where I COULD NOT SLEEP. The first two nights I DID NOT SLEEP-not for one minute. The last 5 nights, it took me a minimum of 2 hours to fall to sleep each night, even with the assistance of Tylenol PM. I was so sick and exhausted the whole trip that I couldn't eat due to the nausea. I lost 4 pounds in a week. I'm terrified of any more long trips due to the misery of what was supposed to be a fun vacation (to celebrate our 10th anniversary!). I think if I ever try it again, I will need prescription strength sleep aids.

Nothing But Bonfires
Apr 15, 2010

Tracy, that's happened to me too! Tylenol PM is your friend.

Apr 19, 2010

My jet lag-induced insomnia laughed at Tylenol PM! Although, I must admit to not trying it the first or second night. After the completely sleepless night I did start taking it at bedtime. Maybe it did help the other nights (maybe instead of tossing and turning for 2-3 hours per night, it would've been all night!).

I think I never adjusted to Belgian time. After hours of lying down trying to sleep I would notice my heart was racing, which really freaked me out. I also had NO trouble adjusting to going home. My husband woke up ridiculously early our first morning back in the US and I had no such issue!

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