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I’m going to show you how to seriously reduce (or eliminate) jet lag even if you fly to the other side of the planet.
I do so much traveling, jet lag is a pretty big deal to me. If you live a more international or location independent lifestyle, it will be for you as well.
Today I’m going to go over several techniques I have personally used that I know for a fact work in noticeably reducing jet lag, or in some cases, completely eliminating it, even if you’re traveling 12+ hours away. Traveling from Dubai to the Pacific Northwest, where I’m originally from, is a 14-hour ordeal, and when I don’t use these techniques, the jet lag kicks my ass.
Let me clarify one thing before I begin. If you’re traveling from the east coast to the west coast and you’re looking at a three-hour time difference, there’s probably not much you can do about that. I’m talking about major jet lag—like going from Europe or Asia to the U.S., with time differences of 6, 8, 10 hours or more.
As we go, I’m going to label these techniques as either mandatory or optional. Some of them will sound odd, but they work.
1. Mandatory — As soon as you board the plane, set your watch, laptop, etc., to the destination time zone and behave accordingly for the rest of the trip.
Do this with any electronic device you have with you that displays the time. I don’t wait till I get there; once I’m on the plane, I automatically assume I’m in that new time zone. From that point on, all my routines and behaviors are done according to my destination time zone. That gives me a head start on the time adjustment I inevitably face.
2. Mandatory — Do not sleep on the plane unless it’s appropriate for your destination time zone.
This is a rule everyone screws up. Let’s say it’s nighttime when you’re getting on the plane, but it’s 9:00 a.m. where you’re going and you’ll be on the plane until about 4:00 p.m. destination time.
You should not sleep while you’re on that flight. At all.
Once the plane is in the air, they serve the food, and turn down the lights, most people will go to sleep. Stupid! That’s horrible for jet lag. You need to stay awake. If you had already arrived at your destination, you wouldn’t be sleeping, so don’t sleep on the flight. This is how you get a jump on the time adjustment.
My attitude is, I’d rather have an uncomfortable flight for 10-12 hours than have an uncomfortable three or four days as I adjust to jet lag. Be uncomfortable for a while. Don’t sleep just because everyone else is.
A corollary to this is the opposite: If it’s nighttime/bedtime wherever you’re headed, do sleep on the plane for the appropriate length of time if you can. Even if it’s just a short time, it’ll make a huge difference when you get there. Above all, do whatever you’d do if you had already arrived.
3. Mandatory — Do not eat any food during the entire flight.
This sounds strange to a lot of you, but it’s true: If you’re on a plane to Asia for 15 hours, don’t eat for 15 hours. Consider it a fast.
When you eat during a long flight, it screws up your body clock. Regardless of what the destination time is, you don’t want to consume any food while you’re on the flight. You can eat right before you leave, just not in-flight.
The benefits you’ll reap in avoiding jet lag will far outweigh how uncomfortable you might be on the plane. You can eat your ass off when you arrive.
4. Mandatory — Drink shitloads of water on the flight.
One of the primary reasons jet lag feels so bad is not only because of the time zone change but also because your body is becoming massively dehydrated. The goal should be to drink one liter of water for every three hours you’re on the plane.
At the airport, before I get on the plane, I buy at least three one-liter bottles of water, and my goal is to drink them all before the flight lands. I try to drink one liter every three hours of flight time. I don’t always hit that goal, but I get close.
The good news is that it helps because you’re not eating; the bad news is that you’ll be pissing a lot. That’s all right. It’s vitally important to stay hydrated during a long flight, and you won’t believe the benefits after the fact. If that means getting an aisle seat, no problem. Do whatever you need to do.
5. Mandatory — If the sun is out when you arrive, spend some time outside.
Blue light exposure is a core aspect of jet lag. You want that sunlight in your eyes if at all possible. I would recommend a minimum of 30 minutes out walking around just to get that sunlight in your eyes.
Cardio is a good optional addition to this. If you can get your sun exposure while working in some cardio, that’s even better. Even stretching or calisthenics will work.
If it’s nighttime when you arrive, this is obviously not an option. But if it’s at all possible, take advantage of it.
6. Optional — If it’s daytime when you arrive, take a very cold shower as soon as you get to the hotel.
Sometimes I do this, sometimes I don’t. But if you can pull this off, get in the shower, make it as cold as you can tolerate, and get your head wet. Freeze yourself out for a few minutes and then get out and dry off.
Again, this only applies if it’s daytime when you arrive. If it’s nighttime when you arrive, don’t do it.
7. Optional — If it’s nighttime when you arrive, jack up the AC and take a hot bath.
Not a shower—a bath. If a hot tub is an option at your hotel, that’s even better. The objective is to take a hot bath for five minutes for every hour of time change you’re dealing with. So if you’re 12 time zones away, you’ll be in there for an hour. That sounds like a lot, and sometimes you won’t be able to pull it off, but it will help if you can. Do your best and get in as much as you can.
Keep the bath as hot as you can, then go to bed in a freezing cold room. Again, this is optional, but it will help.
8. Mandatory — When you arrive, do not go to sleep until it’s time (according to your destination time zone).
Let’s say you arrive at 4:00 p.m. destination time, and you normally go to sleep around 10:00 p.m. You’re probably going to want to sleep as soon as possible since you’ve just had a long flight where you didn’t sleep at all.
Don’t do it. Do whatever you need to go to stay awake until bedtime. You’re trying to duplicate your sleep patterns in your new location as early in the process as you possibly can.
Napping right when you arrive is the worst thing you can do. It will only worsen the jet lag you’re dealing with. You’ll be peeing a lot in the middle of the night since you drank so much water on the flight, but it’s worth it, believe me.
If you do these things, you will be shocked at how your jet lag will be lessened. I was surprised myself.