Tips and some new tricks from a seasoned singular traveler can trim days off jet lag recovery — and even give an energy boost to those of us who stay home. Find out how!
It seems that these days even a cross-city trek at rush hour or a supposedly relaxing “staycation” feels like a voyage and can leave me exhausted. Is there such a thing as local-time jet lag? Where is the down time in my busy schedule to relax and catch up before hitting the usual whirlwind pace of my workweek? That sleep deprivation is a fact of my harried multitasking life is a given for any single person — so I know I’m not alone.
However, recently I went to Italy — a true long-distance voyage with a nine-hour time difference from Los Angeles. So before I left, I swore to myself that I would find a way to beat the jet lag that I knew I would experience, or at least keep it to a bare inconvenience. I did — and found some helpful tips to aid in my “local time jet lag” and energy levels too!
The jet lag we know, or “desynchronosis,” is more than the let down and disappointment of coming back to reality after snorkeling through coral reefs in the Indian Ocean or dining on truffles in the Italian Piedmont. Traveling across time zones, east/west directions, has an effect on the circadian rhythms and temperature of the body as it attempts to adjust to the times of sunrise and onset of darkness.
Traveling north and south doesn’t take the same toll on our body as the time of day remains the same. Commonly it takes at least one day for each time zone crossed to rid oneself of the feelings of fatigue, loss of drive and concentration and general lack of energy. The further one travels, these feelings can be multiplied. Europe is nine time zones away from Los Angeles.
Prep work for the travel warrior
In my own experience and in those of others I have encountered, the excitement, possibly the adrenaline rush, of traveling to a new place will often reduce the jet lag symptoms. For me, it seems to be easier to get beyond jet lag when I am arriving at the destination of my vacation and more difficult returning home. Although the “experts” say that traveling east is more difficult and traveling west is easier, I don’t feel that is necessarily true. I just know what my body tells me.
Knowing this, before leaving for my Italian trip, I did my homework on combating jet lag. Serendipity also provided for some innovative new products recommended to me — ones that proved incredibly helpful in overcoming the effects.
I followed the usual advice of avoiding caffeine and alcohol on flights, drinking lots of water. I also immediately changed my watch to the local time upon arrival, so I wouldn’t constantly be checking my watch and comparing the actual time to the one I had left.
In addition, I forced myself to stay up as late and as long as possible on arrival days at each end of my voyage. To do this, put yourself into a situation where you are simply unable to succumb to the crash of fatigue and push through it, such as going out to dinner with friends. The quicker you get into the routine of where you are, the better the chances you will have of sleeping through the night.
Products that go above and beyond:
A pocket size machine to help naturally regulate sleep without drugs, sound, masks or wires. Pulsing with a calming blue light, it leads the user through simple deep-breathing exercises that relieve stress and invite sleep. You regulate your breathing to the slowing pulses of the gentle, blue light, in a seven-minute cycle. The effect is very similar to a yoga technique I have used for years, but this little gadget works even better, helping you to focus and removing distracting thoughts. When I have used it, after just a few minutes, my eyelids become heavy and I effortlessly slip away into dreamland. After seven minutes, the NightWave turns off.
Karen Hodgson, frequent long-distant traveler and owner of an Australian luxury travel agency, Australian 2000 travel, has this to say, “When traveling to the South Pacific and crossing the International Dateline, I always book an early check-in at my hotel to ensure immediate access to my room on the early morning arrival. Immediately I take a shower, unpack, go out for breakfast, take a long walk and get on with my day. I eat an early, light dinner and return to my hotel and take a massage in my room to ensure a restful night’s sleep.
I keep a NightWave sleeping device by my bedside to assist in falling back to sleep when I wake at 3:00 or 4:00 a.m. I try to return from the South Pacific on a Friday and so arrive at my home in the early evening of the same day. I take a shower immediately, eat a light dinner and go to bed.
During the weekend I get up when I wake up, perhaps 12 hours later, spend a very lazy few hours until I feel sleepy and go to bed. Again, getting up when I wake up. With that pattern I usually am able to overcome the effects of jet lag by the end of the weekend.”
The travel version of the NightWave sleep assistant also comes with a neoprene carrying case. It is priced at $69.95.
Some say that taking melatonin supplements are helpful, but this is controversial and I did not try that because of some negative reviews and warnings. After experimentation, I was and am extremely enthusiastic about three natural supplements — Wake Up on Time, Stay Up All Day and Sleep Tight All Night. I had met their creator, Cathy Beggan, a single mother of three, a few weeks before my trip. She developed these products a couple of years ago for herself and others like her who had battled morning tiredness for years. A longtime proponent of natural remedies, she sought a solution that would enhance her lifestyle, and allow her to wake up and go through her day feeling refreshed, alert and full of energy, without jittery feelings.
What is great about these products is that they really work! To combat my jet lag I took Wake Up on Time right before going to bed. It has time-released ingredients that start dispersing toward the end of the sleep cycle, to get me going in the morning. I also took Sleep Tight All Night for a couple of nights when I arrived in Italy and when I returned home, to help me sleep through the night. The Wake Up on Time helped me wake up feeling full of energy.
Upon arising, I took a Stay Up All Day capsule, which gave surprising energy, no fatigue, clear-headedness, without any jittery over-caffeinated feeling and no crash after taking it. A pleasant side effect, which Cathy had noted to me, is that I was also less hungry, so it was easy to drop the few extra pounds (kilos!) that I likely put on, due to the deliciousness of the Italian food.
I would also like to recommend another product, which I used sparingly, but that I would suggest to those who are tolerant of caffeine — Rev 3 Energy Surge Pack. These are small individual envelopes that come packaged in a cute little travel pouch. You add one little packet to a bottle of water and shake. Low in sugar and calories, it has a light citrusy tea taste.
Rev 3’s caffeine source is a concentrated blend of caffeine from the leaves of three different types of tea. One packet contains 80 mg caffeine, about the quantity in an average cup of coffee. I found Rev 3 to be too intense to be taken later in the day, and for me, best consumed around mid-morning with a snack. However, I must confess to not being caffeine-crazed and others that are more used to the effects might risk taking this when the early evening jet lag slump hits hardest.
I hope that these tips will help ensure our SingularCity members and readers a quicker and smoother return from paradise! Certainly the NightWave sleep assistant and the Wake Up on Time and Stay Up All Day products are now a part of my multi-tasking, freeway-driving L.A. persona — above and beyond jet lag. They help me stay energized, focused and feeling able to face with aplomb any hell-bent urban warrior. What more could a girl want?
The Anti-Jet Lag Diet
This diet was developed to prepare the body for flights over long distances and several time zones. To be truthful, I don’t think this would work for me as I do not like either fasting or eating too much of heavy foods! But I thought I would post this information for you and you can make of it what you will. Thanks to Karen Hodgson, Australian 2000 Travel, for sending it to me!
To avoid jet lag, the Anti-Jet-Lag Diet uses some of the same time cues that cause it. These time cues include meal times, sunset and sunrise, and daily cycles of rest and activity. Normally, they work together to help keep the body on schedule and healthy.
Although not actually a “diet,“ it helps avoid jet lag with a coordinated plan that combines a number of time-giving cues — including alternate days of moderate feasting and fasting — to help speed your adjustment to a new schedule. Still, we call it a ‘diet’ because meals are central. What you eat sends your body signals about waking up and going to sleep. And because meals tend to occur at reasonably consistent times during the day, their regularity helps to reinforce the regularity of other time-setting activities.
You start a few days ahead of your departure date to prepare your time-zone adjustment by carefully planning the amounts and types of food eaten at meal times. On the day you arrive at your destination, your body’s clock is reset by assuming the same meal and activity schedule as people in the new time zone.
An example traveling east: A traveler planning a Sunday flight from New York to Paris faces a nine-hour flight across six time zones. The traveler plans to arrive Monday at 10 a.m. Paris time, and wants to advance his or her body clock so it is not still set for 4 a.m. New York time upon arrival.
To avoid jet lag, the traveler begins the Anti-Jet-Lag Diet on Thursday, three days before the flight. Meals are eaten at their regular New York times. Thursday is a feast day, to be followed by fasting on Friday, feasting on Saturday and fasting on Sunday. The day of the flight is always a fast day.
Feast days: On feast days, you eat three full meals. Take second helpings. Breakfast and lunch should be high in protein. Steak and eggs make a good breakfast, followed later by meat and, perhaps, beans for lunch. Protein helps the body produce chemicals it normally produces when it’s time to wake up and get going. High-protein meals do not need to be exclusively protein, but they should emphasize it.
Supper is high in carbohydrates. They help the body produce chemicals that it normally produces when its time to bring on sleep. Spaghetti or another pasta is good, but no meatballs — they contain too much protein. High-carbohydrate meals need not be exclusively carbohydrate, but they should emphasize it.
Fast days: On fast days, eat three small meals. They should be low in carbohydrates and calories to help deplete the liver’s store of carbohydrates. Acceptable meals on fast days would contain 700 calories or less and might consist of skimpy salads, thin soups and half-slices of bread.
Whether feasting or fasting, the traveler drinks coffee, or any other drink containing caffeine, only between 3 p.m. and 5 p.m. This is the one time of day when caffeine seems to have no effect on the body’s rhythms.
Flight day: Sunday evening — flight day — you board the plane about 7 p.m. and begin the first phase of speeding up your body’s internal clock to Paris time. Drink two or three cups of coffee between 9 and 10 p.m., turn off the overhead light and goes to sleep.
Destination breakfast time: About 1:30 a.m. New York time, you take the final steps that reset your body’s clock to Paris time: You begin a third feast day, but this one is based on Paris time. It may be 1:30 a.m. in New York, but in Paris it’s 7:30 a.m. — your normal breakfast time. You wake up — the coffee you drank before going to sleep helps you do this — and eat a high-protein breakfast without coffee; it might be last night’s supper, which you saved for breakfast. Most airlines will gladly agree to this request. The large, high-protein meal helps your body wake up and synchronize itself with the Parisians, who are eating breakfast at about the same time.
Stay active: Having finished breakfast, you stay active to keep your body working on Paris time. The other passengers may be asleep, but you are walking the aisles, talking to the flight attendants or working at your seat.
Monday afternoon in Paris, eat a high-protein lunch. Steak is a good choice. That evening, eat a high-carbohydrate supper — crepes, for example, but with no high-protein meat filling — and go to bed early.
Tuesday morning, you wake up with little or no jet lag.
The return trip, traveling west: On the return trip, the procedure is reversed, with one change. Going from east to west, you want to turn the body clock back six hours so that upon arrival at, say, 10 p.m. New York time, your body clock is not still set at 4 a.m. Paris time.
The same feast-fast-feast-fast procedure is followed as before. For the first four days, your meals and activities are on Paris time. Your fourth day — a fast day — is the day you leave Paris. In the morning, you drink two or three cups of caffeinated coffee. You break the fast with a high-protein “breakfast” at the same time New Yorkers are eating breakfast. At that point, you begin a third feast day, but on a New York time schedule. Do not nap on the plane after you break the fast. Stay active and alert. In New York, go to bed about an hour earlier than usual. Wake up the next morning with little or no jet lag.
Medical caution: Remember to be safe. If you are under a doctor’s care, consult your physician before using the Anti-Jet-Lag Diet — not because using the Anti-Jet-Lag Diet will harm you, but because varying your doctor’s instructions might.