Jan 4, 2008

6 jet lag tips: overcoming "the shiftwork effect" for world travelers

One way that everyone can get a taste of shiftwork is dealing with jet lag when they travel across time zones. Here are some tips to deal with jet lag:

Tip 1: Stay hydrated
Drink a lot of liquids. Water is best. Drink before, during, and after your flight. Dehydration compound the effects of jet lag. Avoid alcohol and caffeine, both for their chemical effects and because they are diuretics and will tend to dehydrate you.

Tip 2: Manage your sleep
If you are arriving at your destination in the morning, try to sleep on the plane and stay awake after landing, to try to adapt as quickly as possible to the new time zone. Moderate amounts of caffeine (coffee, tea, soda, etc.) can be helpful in the morning in your new time zone to help you stay awake throughout the day. Try to avoid napping during the day as that will just prolong the adjustment period.

If you are arriving in the afternoon, stay awake on your flight so you'll be ready to go to bed at night in your destination country.

Travel with eye shades, ear plugs, and, for sleeping on the plane, an inflatable neck pillow. Try to avoid sleeping pills if possible since they can leave you feeling groggy past when you want to be sleeping.

Tip 3: Plan your schedule upon arrival
If you've traveled east 3 or more time zones schedule meetings for late morning or earl afternoon when you'll be most alert.

Tip 4: Reset your body clock with exercise and light
Light is a zeitgeiber (German for "time giver" or time cue). Expose yourself to bright light in the morning in your destination city to help your body clock (your circadian rhythms) adapt to the new time zone. Exercising in the morning will also help.

Tip 5: Go easy on eating
You want to try to get onto your destination time zone as quickly as possible, but your body's digestive system takes a while to adjust too. So eat in small portions that are easier to digest.

Tip 6: Remember it takes time
Finally, be realistic about your body's ability to adjust. Your body can adjust about one time zone per day. So, if you're traveling half way around the world, it will take you more than a week to fully adjust. Don't undertake dangerous activities while you're still heavily jetlagged. Caffeine and napping can help but don't overdo these since they can have unintended consequences. Don't forget what happened to the first President George Bush when he just tried to push through his jet lag on a quick visit to Japan -- he threw up on the Japanese Prime Minister. Ouch! Respect your body's limits.

Although some people think jet lag is just in people's heads, it's not. Although some people are affected more or less than others, jet lag is real. The good news is, there are things you can do that will help you transition faster and more comfortably.

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