When I flew to Asia a couple weeks ago, I was worried about jet lag. Not only when I arrived in Hong Kong and later Shanghai, but also when I returned home to Chicago after eleven days away.
See, in the recent past I’ve only been away from home for seven days when I’ve flown to Hong Kong. I would wake up every night in Hong Kong at 3am, but would fall back to sleep until 6 or 7am, and would be pretty alert during the day. When I returned to Chicago, I would still be on Chicago time, so wouldn’t experience jet lag back home.
But eleven days in Asia would most certainly put me on Asian time at some point during the trip, so I worried about returning home and having to take care of my kids all while trying to battle a time zone half a world away.
Only I never got much jet lag, neither in Hong Kong and Shanghai nor back in Chicago.
So what gives?
Back when I lived in Hong Kong, I would pop a Melatonin whenever I flew back and forth to the US. But I know better now and won’t take Ambien or other sleeping pills.
Now I have four drug-free strategies for combatting jet lag.
When I fly with my husband Tom, he drinks wine, beer, and coffee, alternating it with water, but always feels terrible when we arrive in Hong Kong.
I, on the other hand, only drink water and Gatorade (which, Tom taught me, contains the World Health Organization’s cholera rehydration formula) and lots of it. In the US, I can take Gatorade onto the plane, but all liquids are confiscated on international flights originating in other countries. So the Gatorade only works on flights from the US.
2. Get plenty of rest
On my most recent flights to Asia, I slept more than I watched movies or read. I used to think that if I slept too much on a flight, I wouldn’t be tired when I arrived at my destination. But who really gets solid sleep while flying coach? No matter how much I rest on the plane, I’ll never get into a deep sleep. But I still think it’s best to rest up as much as possible on the plane (in between drinking tons of water and Gatorade) so you go into your destination on a sleep deficit as small as possible.
3. Stay up until the nighttime of the new time
Flying into Hong Kong is easy in a way because the flights from Chicago arrive around 8pm. After clearing customs and getting to my hotel, it’s usually close to 10pm. This is a good time to go to sleep, but on my recent trip I stayed up even later and walked around the neighborhood until I was sleepy. So I went to bed around midnight and–apart from waking up at 3am for 10-15 minutes–slept until 7am. Not bad.
4. Stay busy during the day
When I travel with Tom, he likes to take an afternoon nap no matter where we are. But I’ve found with international travel it’s best to stay out and not stop until after dinner. This is also true when I return home. I thought I would need hours of afternoon naps upon my return to Chicago. But I found I wasn’t tired all day until around 8pm because there were just too many things to do. My mom also gave me this advice when she returned from our trip. She felt much better getting out than staying home and trying to sleep in.
It’s been over a week now since I’ve been back and jet lag never really hit. I woke up for a week around 2am, but always fell back asleep before long. I’ve had worse insomnia without having traveled half a world away.
Do you have other tips for battling jet lag? Or things I haven’t mentioned that contribute to jet lag?