This has been a heck of a travel week for me. I started in Los Angeles, traveled to Honolulu, then to San Francisco, then Frankfurt, and finally back to Los Angeles. But I’m not jet lagged. Here are three things I do to avoid jet lag when I travel.
1. Choose Water over Alcohol and Coffee
Staying hydrated is the single most important factor in avoiding jet lag. Mild dehydration routinely occurs when traveling by air and exacerbates the physical symptoms of jet lag. Drink plenty of water not only on your flight, but on the day before your journey and upon arral. You may think alcohol helps you sleep and coffee keeps you awake and that is true, but it encourages dehydration and is ultimately more harmful than helpful.
2. For Short Trips: Do Not Acclimate to New Time Zone; For Long Trips: Aclimate to New Time Zone Before You Travel
If your trip is short, avoid adjusting to the new time zone. For my trip this week I never adjusted my watch from West Coast time. Furthermore, I tried to keep my normal west coast schedule — sleeping and waking at my usual time. While sleeping in the morning and working in the evening is not always possible, if you can manage this on quicker trips you will be rewarded.
On longer trips, the opposite is true. If I am traveling to Europe I will set my watch to European time a day early. That means I will avoid sleeping the night before the trip (morning in Europe or afternoon in Asia) and adjust my sleep schedule on the flight according to destination time.
3. On Longer Trips, No Napping Upon Arrival
Naps are deadly if you want to avoid jet lag. After an overnight transatlantic flight you may be able to get through the morning, but fatigue will set in after lunch, even if you flew first class. If you take a long nap, you will find yourself wide awake at 3am and jet lagged for days. Resist the urge to nap by working out instead or just walking outdoors. If you can make it through the day, you will sleep well overnight and wake up not only refreshed the next morning, but acclimated to the new time zone. If you absolutely cannot resit a nap, make sure it is 20-minute “power nap” and not longer. Set multiple alarms.
These are general tips that have served me well over the years. Nevertheless, sometimes jet lag rears it ugly head anyway. But by following these three easy steps you will be able to minimize the occurrence of jet lag and better able to enjoy your trips.