How to cope with jet lag
My watch tells me it’s 7.30 p.m. My body believes it’s the middle of the night. My brain doesn’t care — it’s just frazzled from tiredness and travel.
I’ve flown overnight from New York to Frankfurt, a time change gaining six hours. I then flew onto Singapore and Hong Kong.
I’m now 12 hours ahead of where I started and I can barely concentrate. I feel tired, a bit spacey. Conversations may take place around me and I sort of zone out.
My circadian rhythm — the body’s internal 24-hour clock — is out of whack. I am in the twilight world of jet lag.
That internal clock knows when it’s daylight and when it’s night. It knows when I’m ready to sleep and ready to be awake.
When my body clock is running in sync with the time and place where I am, all is well.
Then comes a 14-hour flight in a pressurized metal tube that deposits me on the other side of the world, in a time zone 10 hours from where I left, at the wrong time of day for my body.
The result is jet lag.
Jet lag affects us all to some degree or another when we fly across time zones. There are some travelers who annoyingly claim not to be affected — good luck to them!
For the rest of us all we can do is mitigate this effect.
Jet lag gadgets
The general rule of thumb is that eastbound travel is worse for jet lag than westbound — no idea why, but that’s what I’ve always been told.
Also, it takes an hour a day to readjust fully to the new timezone — so it will take 12 days to fully acclimatize after flying from New York to Singapore.
Obviously we can’t just sit around doing nothing while these minor body adjustments take place; we battle on through.
That is why an entire industry has built up around preventing or mitigating jet lag. Over the years I have tried most of them in some shape or form.
There are full-throttle sleeping pills like Ambien or Atarax and hormone supplements like Melatonin.
I’ve tried chamomile tea before bed and when waking up. Hot showers. Cold showers. Eating more fruit. Not eating any fruit.
I’ve also tried the Philip Stein sleep bracelet that claims to have natural energy waves to help re-balance the body.
Currently I’m experimenting with Ayo Light Therapy Glasses that involve wearing a headband above the eyes that shines a blue light for up to 30-minute sessions.
Some work better than others — and some never seem to work.
Regardless, two days after a mega-long flight crossing multiple timezones, there will come that moment when I suddenly realize I haven’t heard a word anyone is saying to me, where I feel dog-tired, woozy and can barely keep my eyes open. Yup, jet lag has hit me again.
Remedies that work
One thought — I’ll often hear people complain about jet lag immediately after a red-eye transatlantic, when what they are really suffering from is physical tiredness after flying all night.
The jet lag wont kick in for another 12 to 24 hours hours, when the body realizes that the air, the temperature and the light are all different to what it is used to.
So what’s Quest’s best jet lag remedy?
1. Recognize that it’s a natural phenomenon and all we can do is to mitigate the worst effects.
2. Set your watch to the destination time as soon as you get going and start behaving accordingly — try to sleep when you’re supposed to be sleeping at your destination.
3. When you get to your destination, get as much sunshine as you can. Vitamin D is a great remedy for jet lag.
4. Don’t be afraid or embarrassed to tell colleagues you’re tired and are going for a lie down. Just a quick snooze on the top of the bed.
Do all or some of these and you will still suffer from jet lag, but hopefully will feel well enough to ignore it and power on.
Excuse me now, I have just been sitting here looking at the computer screen for 10 minutes and not a thought or word written.
I am jet lagged.
Time to snooze