Dealing with Jet Lag

I arrived in London on Monday from Los Angeles and suffered one of the worst cases of Jet Lag I’ve had in my life. I went almost 48 hours with only an hour of sleep and then followed it up with a 14 hour sleep session on Tuesday.

Despite all the traveling I’ve done over the last 5 years, I actually haven’t suffered from jet lag that much. First, I have mostly been moving to the west and I find it easier to go west than it is going east. Second, I haven’t required that many long flights. When I started in 2007 in the Pacific I mostly had short flights that didn’t require a lot of time adjustment. What long flights I’ve had usually had a large north/south component to it (New York to Johannesburg).

Two week ago when I flew to New Zealand, the flight was longer but the jet lag issues were much less. Most of the distance between LA and Auckland is north/south. The actual time difference is only 4 hours (well, it is technically 18 hours given the international date line…) When I arrived in New Zealand I didn’t have to really adjust at all. I just woke up early most days and for the duration of my stay I was just an early bird.

Going from LA to London, however, is another kettle of fish. It is almost all east/west. The time difference is 8 hours. In theory the flight was an overnight flight, but given the time my body was on and how hard it is for me to sleep on an airplane seat, I arrived in London without a wink of sleep.

I’ve heard of all sorts of tips for getting over jet lag from taking melatonin to vitamin supplements. In the end, I think there is really only one way to deal with it: get yourself really tired and then sleep. Going a day without sleep and then sleeping for 14 hours probably doesn’t sound like fun, but it works. I’m basically adjusted to London time in only 2 days.

The one thing I would recommend is not drinking any alcohol for the first few days after a long trip. Drinking probably isn’t going to help anything.

What do you do to get over jet lag?

22 thoughts on “Dealing with Jet Lag”

  1. As Nancy and Shawn cite, adjusting in advance to prevent jet lag works best for me. I travel from the west coast to Germany a couple of times per year and with it being 9 time zones away it’s a killer. Since the travel is to the corporate parent, jet lag is not an option.

    I adjust ahead of time by getting up an hour earlier each day during the week ahead of travel. Although going to bed stupidly early just before departure, the next morning arrival doesn’t hurt. A workout and getting to bed early on arrival day, and I’m 100% the next morning. By the way, well-timed melatonin during the prep week helps considerably.


  2. Same as you Gary…we let ourselves get totally drained, then sleep for 14 or 16 hours. Then we go on the schedule of the new destination. Seems to work best.

  3. Being Jet Legged is one of the worst feelings while on the road, but it seems to me that the older I get it becomes a necessary evil of traveling.

  4. I have tried melatonin, I don’t know if it works or is a placebo but lately I have heard from several sources the key is not to eat. I won’t drink on a plane but not eating for 20 hours on a boring flight would be dreadful.

  5. Hiya Gary.
    It was great to meet you in LA and then meet up again in London.

    So sorry about the jetlag issue. I’m pretty good at sleeping on airplanes, so the only issue I have with an eastbound crossing of the Atlantic is that at 3p the next day I’m super tired. The onboard sleep helps by me not falling asleep/being tired when I arrive. If I can make it past that time, I’m good to go.

    My tip for you is to get some sleep on the plane (being cheeky). If you can’t do that, then on arrival try to get a shower as that will wake you up. Then power through until your normal bedtime, resting the urge to go to bed before then. If you can’t get a shower on arrival, then you just have to keep on the move until you can get a shower and relax a bit. Don’t oversleep the next day though, get up and start your day early.

    As for your hotel not being able to accommodate you, that’s a bummer. I’m usually pretty good about getting them to allow me in; lucky I guess. Oftentimes, I denote my reservation that I’m arriving early and frequent stayer status does help. Otherwise, you can actually pay a small fee to check-in early with some chains. I know the Accor chain charges 10 GBP for such a pleasure. Other hotels like the Hilton on Edgeware Road luckily have a workout area/spa so you can take a shower/workout and stash your stuff if your room is not ready. Sometimes, it also means taking whatever room they have available. In LA, I was able to check into the Sheraton at 10a when I arrived albeit in a slightly lesser than desired room (low floor).

    So yeah in London on Tuesday at 3p, I was a mess, but it lasted only 5 minutes, then I was good to go. I just had to sit down for a few minutes in one of the sessions. Then having a nice sleep at about 12:30a since I was out socializing with you all on Tuesday night :-).

    Good luck on the voyages.

  6. While drinking certainly doesn’t help with jet lag, I generally have a glass or two of wine on the plane to knock me out. I generally plan on jet lag and arrive at least a half day earlier than needed on international trips. If I’m tired I sleep, if not I take in some extra time at my destination.

  7. I’m really worried about going back to Bali after being in London for 2 weeks. The bali to London didn’t take me too long to get adjusted, but the otherway…I’m already nervous. I have melatonin and hope this will help

  8. Hi,

    So i think this one has been made unforgettable tour for you. How was the experience of this journey.

  9. I cannot sleep on airplanes either, even if I am in business class (one of the pod people). My solution is to avoid sleep during the flight and try to put my body on local time ASAP. A long sleep at the destination and I am normally reset, though I do go to bed and rise a lot earlier than at home. Booze definitely does not help.

  10. Hey Gary,

    Yes, we agree with you about the best efforts to avoid jet lag. Adjusting your sleeping pattern before your flight is helpful and drinking a boatload of water prior to too and during the flight works for us.

    Thanks for sharing!

    Nancy & Shawn

  11. I traveled to Spain just two weeks ago and did great once I got there but returning, through the East Coast snow storm was hell. With lay overs and delays I had a severe case of jet lag. I worked through it by extending my sleep an hour or two the first week and by the weekend daylight savings time caught me up completely.

  12. Yeah I know all about that LA to London time malfunction but for me the ONLY way to beat it is to get completely sloshed on my return with friends. That way I fall asleep night time UK and wake up totally hungover and feeling like most Sundays so back to normal.

    BTW – who is the pic on your facebook avatar? Is it you? Everytime I see it I think of the late great Alec Guiness in his prime.

  13. I’m always in the back of the plane and sleep isn’t happening. I find that the first day in Europe (traveling from Dallas) taking about a 60 to 90 minute nap in the afternoon works. Then stay up until your normal bedtime. I usually sleep well the first night but need to take some Tylenol PM the *second* night and possibly some thereafter. To completely get over jet lag and be completely functional takes about one day per hour of time change. So, sometimes you leave before you’re adjusted. Westbound is easier, but not easy.

  14. The first thing I do is when I get on the plane I change my watch to where I’ll be landing. Second, I go to sleep when I normally would at my final destination’s time. Third, I stay awake for the whole day when I arrive at my final destination, do whatever it takes to stay awake, walk, run, sprint, crawl. :)

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