7 Ideas to Fight Jet Lag

“When I retire, I am going to travel the world. Europe, Asia, tropical islands, exotic ports of call, “to infinity and beyond” – I will finally have time to do it all.” Every retiree-to-be wait in anticipation for the day when he can utter these words and start making plans to hit the road. For years we read our Via and Budget Travel  and Conde Naste magazines, tearing out glowing articles on those most interesting destinations and adding them to the ubiquitous “Travel Folder”.  Now in retirement we get to pull them out, dust them off and pick which one to do first…and second…and onward. As St. Augustine said, “The world is a book, and those who do not travel read only a page”.

But when you get on that airplane bound for Timbuktu and you happily settle yourself in for the many hours it will take to reach your chosen destination, you are likely to bring along an unwanted companion whose presence can be annoying and downright tiring. He typically makes himself known once you have landed and are just starting to investigate your new surroundings, excited, curious, a little fearful, and suddenly VERY tired. Say Bonjour to Mr. Jet Lag.

Wikipedia defines Jet lag as the following: “Medically referred to as “desynchronosis”, it is a physiological condition which is a consequence of alterations to circadian rhythms. Jet lag results from rapid long-distance transmeridian (east-west or west-east) travel, as on a jet plane”. Basically your body experiences daylight and darkness contrary to what it is used to. The resulting tiredness, headaches, crankiness, and insomnia can last for days, roughly estimated at one day per eastward time zone and 1.5 days per westward time zone. The Upjohn Company did a study in cooperation with British Air Ways and United Airlines which showed that as many as 94% of the long distance travelers suffered from jet lag effects. Out of these, 45% considered their symptoms bothersome to a severe extent. The price of travel!

So what can you do to deal with Jet lag and get yourself back in rhythm as soon as possible?

Ideas to minimize jet lag:

1)    Drink lots of water – dehydration is one of the main causes of jet lag. Every site and article that I reviewed pointed to this as a must do to minimize the impact of long distance travel, so keep your whistle wetted.

2)    Avoid caffeine and alcohol before the flight as well as while in the air as this adds to dehydration which we do not want.

3)    Sleeping aids – ear plugs, blindfolds, neck rests, blow up pillows, earphones playing your favorite relaxing tunes, whatever helps you get some rest.

4)    Sleeping pills – although they may help you catch some sleep, it is not without risks. “How to reduce jet lag” states: “This is a dangerous approach as sleeping pills induce a comatose state with little or no natural body movement, and it is well-known that prolonged immobility during flight can lead to fatal blood clots (deep vein thrombosis). So be careful with this one.

5)    Adjust your schedule – start eating meals according to the time zone of your destination. You may also want to start getting in sync a few days before your departure, going to bed closer at the time you will be doing so when you land, as well as eating your meals. When you arrive, don’t take a nap but instead wait until the time you will normally go to bed.

6)    Melatonin – a hormone that aids in the control of the body’s circadian rhythm. Cathy Wong for  About.com: Alternative Medicine says “For jet lag, practitioners generally suggest taking a 0.5 mg tablet of melatonin a night for three nights, one hour before a normal bedtime. Research suggests that taking it once a person has reached the travel destination is sufficient, and that starting melatonin supplements prior to or during air travel may actually slow the recovery of jet lag, energy, and alertness.”

7)    Schedule your arrival for 9PM so you can get a night’s sleep early in the game.

Travel is fatal to prejudice, bigotry, and narrow-mindedness, and many of our people need it sorely on these accounts.  Broad, wholesome, charitable views of men and things cannot be acquired by vegetating in one little corner of the earth all one’s lifetime. ~Mark Twain

It is not down in any map; true places never are. ~Herman Melville

Here’s to our many travels and the ultimate arrival at our “true places”. May we enjoy the journey that takes us there and savor each step along the way. If the price of admission is a little jet lag, let us do what we can to battle its effects and in the end accept the discomforts as small price to pay to have the wonders of the world ours to experience.


Don’t forget to pick up a free copy of my Navigating the Retirement Jungle, available upon request by mailing to lovebeingretired@hotmail.com.

6 thoughts on “7 Ideas to Fight Jet Lag

  1. i agree with all your tips. I used a lot of them during my life of constant business trips. though ear plugs never seem to block out much noise for me.

    On long flights from Phoenix to London and Rome I was very surprised that I functioned almost normally for the first day. It wasn’t until day two that it suddenly all caught up with me.

    • I had the same experience my first trip to Switzerland. Landed in the morning and experienced the day although by the end I was slowing down a bit. Went to bed early and slept until the next morning. However, night two, I woke up at 3am and was ready to hit the streets for some sightseeing.

  2. One of the nurses at the Hong Kong Consulate recommended to all of us that we needed to be outside for 10 minutes at NOON- doing nothing for a few days. Just sitting. It speeds up the time clock.
    Used the technique for trips to Europe, Middle East and Asia for the last 20 years. It helps more than any other “cure” I know

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