On jetlag, and how to beat it.
March 30, 2009 2:16 PM   Subscribe

On jetlag, and how to beat it. Reconfiguring your body clock. There and back again.
posted by feelinglistless (17 comments total) 13 users marked this as a favorite
My favorite method for beating jet lag is to not sleep for two days prior to the flight.

This backfired once.

I was heading back o the US from Hungary in May of 2002, so within a year of that fateful day in September. My flight stopped in Amsterdam for a connection; everyone trying to board the Amsterdam->Boston flight was being interrogated one by one by Homeland Security personnel. The line took forever; by the time I got to the front, the coffee was working hell on my system, I was salivating slightly, a bit of a twitch in my right hand, all systems go. The security guard starts asking me questions. Who are you? (Me!) What were you doing in Hungary? (Studying math. Want to see some math books? I have lots!) Why only a one way ticket? (I live in the US. Why should I need round trip tickets? Isn't it allowed to buy one way tickets anymore? Why should they sell them if I shouldn't buy them?) I'll ask the questions here. (Ok.) You seem kind of nervous. (Nervous? Who's nervous? I'm not, um, nervous?) Let me go get my supervisor.

So at this point I'm in full on panic attack. Supervisor comes over, questions repeat, and I end up getting sent to some room in the basement for a thorough check of the luggage. Big concrete room, huge metal detector in the center, me and two middle-eastern guys sitting on a bench at the side of the room, exchanging dreadful glances and avoiding the words 'latex gloves' as we awaited our fates.

Eventually they let me on the plane (though that ticking chess clock gave them a bit of a scare! hah!), which left two hours late.

Other than that, though, my method has always worked wonders. Just take a long rest afterwards and wake up on local time.
posted by kaibutsu at 2:30 PM on March 30, 2009 [2 favorites]

This post assumes high quality pharmaceuticals have not been invented or are not widely available. Since learning of the joys of sleeping aids that actually work jetlag is a thing of the past.
posted by Keith Talent at 2:36 PM on March 30, 2009

That's a whole lot of numbered steps for what is basically one piece of advice: start adjusting early, and try to do 'normal' things at 'normal' times. That's good advice, though.
posted by echo target at 2:42 PM on March 30, 2009

We were 500 miles out of LAX when the drugs began to take effect. I remember saying something like "I feel a bit lightheaded; perhaps you should fly..."
posted by ZenMasterThis at 2:48 PM on March 30, 2009 [2 favorites]

I've flown US to Asia (both heading east and west) many times. The only way to beat jet lag is to just suck it up and realize that you're not going to feel like normal for a day or so.
posted by Burhanistan at 3:01 PM on March 30, 2009

As someone who's travelled to Europe a fair bit:

- fly overnight (your current time zone's overnight) regardless of whether you gain or lose time
- sleep on the plane as much as possible by whatever means possible - drugs, if necessary
- when you land, stay up by whatever means possible until it's the destination's next bedtime

It's painful, but you'll be good by the next day as it sets you up very well to be tired when you need to go to bed at your destination's proper bed time. There's no trying to trick your head, or trying to sleep when you're not tired. That horeseshit doesn't work.
posted by jimmythefish at 3:02 PM on March 30, 2009

I've never experienced jet lag. Ever. Of course, I also have no internal clock. At all.

Left to my own, independent of light and dark (thank you basement bedroom), I very quickly revert to a 4 on, 4 off sleep cycle, where I sleep for 4 hours, and wake for 4-6 hours, then sleep for another 4 hours.

This has advantages, that anywhere I am, I go to sleep when the clock says x time, and wake when the alarm goes off, with very minimal disruption. To go back to a normal time, I do one cycle of 4 on 4 off, and BOOM back to normal.
posted by strixus at 3:18 PM on March 30, 2009

My boss told me marijuana was the best. He's a professor in neuroscience which makes the whole thing a bit weird. No way for me to know if he was joking or not and further questions might be interpreted as trying to score weed of the boss. Bad career move I guess...
posted by uandt at 3:26 PM on March 30, 2009

The only thing that has worked for me is as soon as I get on the plane, assume I am in the time zone of my destination. Avoid alcohol on the flight and drink plenty of water. If you can, get one of those nasal moisturizers to keep your sinuses from drying out. This will help you avoid catching colds or any other airborne diseases that all those people huddled together will share with each other.

Once I am there, I have to be able to at least stay awake until 10pm local time. Sometimes, you have to be in it to win it at this point. Going out with friends and running around town helps, so does unpacking all of your stuff and going for a long walk. Usually within 24-48 hours after my arrival, I am in the groove, except for my digestive system which takes a few extra days to get in sync. YMMV.
posted by chillmost at 3:31 PM on March 30, 2009 [1 favorite]

While I haven't tried this myself, there was some research widely reported last year that a 16 hour pre-flight fast may help reset the body's natural circadian clock.

Myself, I just use Comanaprosil (why shouldn't I enjoy the same luxuries as a dog? ... It's very good.)
posted by Auden at 3:36 PM on March 30, 2009

This post assumes high quality pharmaceuticals have not been invented or are not widely available.

He also shys away from the much more fun ways of getting to sleep. My anti-jet-lag routine is:

  1. Booze
  2. Melatonin
  3. Sleep
  4. Caffeine

In that order, in any direction. Works like a charm.
posted by generichuman at 3:37 PM on March 30, 2009

Melatonin works, check the literature, there's some clinical evidence for its efficacy in jetlag situations.
posted by rxrfrx at 5:09 PM on March 30, 2009 [2 favorites]

The best way to beat "jet lag" is to stay awake until you get on the new time schedule. When I just can't bear to stay awake for that long I do a "caffeine nap" where you drink a cup of coffee and sleep for 20 minutes. This gives me the right amount of jolt to stay awake as long as I need to.
posted by Memory-Foam-Matt at 6:30 PM on March 30, 2009

yeah, i was gonna say, "it's called ambien, use it"
posted by jcruelty at 7:34 PM on March 30, 2009

My boss told me marijuana was the best. He's a professor in neuroscience which makes the whole thing a bit weird.

Check in advance regarding local availability of Visene.

A cautionary tale for those who think of Ambien as a form of time travel: An 8 hour international flight. Nice older couple in the window seats to my right. The gentleman somewhat professorial, he and his wife eating the airplane meal with the careful and considered use of cutlery that indicates some class and culture.

Kind of mid sentence, his arm raised, and with a glass of red wine about two inches away from his taking a sip of it, he froze. The glass of wine is poised at an angle, with the wine cupped at the rim, ready to be consumed.

He stayed in this position for some time, and resisted efforts to adjust his pose. Not knowing what was going on, no one wanted to force him in any way. Finally they took the glass of wine out of his hand , which then stayed in the same position elegantly cupping the drink of wine he was about to take.

After a couple of hours of this, the flight crew started making announcements like, "Is there a neurologist on board?" About five hours later he was still in the same mid-sentence and mid-sip. Not long before the plane landed he just snapped out of it, and his wife established that he had doubled up on the Ambien. Boy did he look embarrassed when he noticed the crowd of people attending to him.
posted by StickyCarpet at 7:37 PM on March 30, 2009 [1 favorite]

Every pharmaceutical solution I've tried has failed, and often has even backfired. Melatonin made my jet lag much, much worse.

What works best for me? Sunlight and light physical activity. The last time I flew back to the US from China I went for 30-minute walks outside twice a day, at 10am and 3 pm. My lag was gone by the third day.

Vitamin D production is one of the (many) mechanisms that regulates your internal clock. Spending time outside helps push it in sync with your new timezone.
posted by xthlc at 7:44 PM on March 30, 2009

The best way to beat "jet lag" is to stay awake until you get on the new time schedule.

This works when you're travelling westwards, and it's like forcing yourself to stay up all night. Eastwards is harder. That's like forcing yourself to go to bed early evening and then get up at 2 am.

You can instead force yourself to wake up at a reasonable local hour "until you get used to it", but that takes a week and you feel like a zombie for the first half of every day. That's more like suffering from jetlag than beating it.
posted by cotterpin at 4:15 AM on March 31, 2009

« Older Michael Osinski wrote the software that turned...   |   Confused about the current financial mess? Newer »

This thread has been archived and is closed to new comments