People often ask me for my “latest” jet lag log. Do I have any new tips, tricks, tools, supplements, or gadgets I swear by for overcoming jet lag while flying? No, and here’s why:
My basic jetlag protocol is already working so well that there’s absolutely no reason to try any newfangled hacks, tips, or pills. It is based entirely on human circadian biology, which has not changed for hundreds of thousands of years. I literally never get jet lagged if I stick to my methods. And I’ve put it to the test regularly by traveling quite a bit on transcontinental flights. Jet lag is said to get worse with age, but it’s getting easier for me.
The experts want you to believe that every hour of time zone change takes a full day to adjust. That was certainly true for me in my 20s when I went to Europe without knowing anything about circadian rhythms, but it doesn’t have to be that way. You don’t have to get jet lagged. You shouldn’t. And I’ll tell you how to avoid it. Let’s get straight to that.
Preparation for the East vs. West flight
First off, the way you handle flight will be slightly different depending on which direction you’re flying.
Preparing to fly east
Break eastbound night flights into two short “days”. If you’re making a big flight east, flying across the Atlantic or Pacific to new countries, it’s generally going to be an overnight stay. With that in mind, split your flight into two short “days”. If the flight lasts eight hours, the first four hours are “night” and the last four hours are “day”. If it is 16 hours, the first eight are night and the last eight are day. Sleep at night.” Get as much sleep as possible and as early as possible during the “nighttime” portion of the flight. This will help normalize your circadian biology and put your body into the day/night “mindset.” Eat Don’t stay up “at night”. Stay up “during the day”. Behave as you do during the day. Read, work, check email, watch movies. Just stay awake. If walking down the halls would be acceptable , I would say walk the aisles Get all your calories throughout the “day” You don’t have to eat, but if you do want to eat, do so in the “day” portion of the flight.
Preparing to fly west
On long westbound flights, a short nap in the middle is fine. Let your body decide whether to sleep or not. Just don’t sleep so late that you have trouble sleeping at night in the new place. eat or not. But don’t overdo it.
Onboard tips to avoid jet lap
Think about fasting
Fasting has been shown to help ward off jet lag, so fasting may actually help you adjust to the new time zone.
Set your clock
Set your watch to the new time zone before you actually get there to get into the “mood” or mindset of the new place. This can happen subconsciously, and I strongly believe that your body begins to subtly adjust just by setting the clock.
Don’t fall asleep with alcohol or sleeping pills
Sleep without pharmacological enhancement. It’s the worst thing you can use to fall asleep. Your sleep will be disrupted, poorly constructed, and it won’t “last.” Your body won’t interpret it as real sleep, which will set you back even further.
Consider the window seat
The downside of the window seat is that you have to climb over people to go to the bathroom. But if you’re trying to get some sleep in flight, it’s worth having the window to wedge yourself against. And you won’t have people climbing over you to get to the toilet during the flight. The pros outweigh the cons for me.
Eat a tomato juice
The salty, potassium-rich tomato juice is incredibly helpful in keeping you hydrated and preventing the amount of urination you have to do. Something special about a can of tomato juice on a plane.
What to do when you land to avoid jet lag
Adjust your mindset to the new location
It is not a “new time zone”. It is “your” time zone. You are here and live in this time zone. Treat it like a normal day. Set your clock, forget what happened the day before. This is your here, this is your now. Adapt.
Stay awake and active in the new location until bedtime
When you arrive, stay awake and active in your new location until bedtime. No nap. keep moving
Be outside as much as possible
The natural light is your friend. It will help you set your circadian rhythm and it will keep you awake.
Take a long walk
Walk as long as you can. It’s a great way to explore a new city, and it keeps you moving and stopping you from napping. It also exposes you to sunlight, which, as I explained earlier, will improve your circadian realignment to the new location.
Eat at the right time, but not too heavy
Food is another circadian entrainer. Eat meals according to the correct meal times at the site.
Keep a bar of dark chocolate with you
When I land at the new location in the morning, I eat half a bar of dark chocolate and some coffee for breakfast. Dark chocolate has been shown to help ward off jet lag when eaten for breakfast (albeit in animals).
Preparing for bedtime at the new location
Take 10 mg of melatonin before bed
Take 10mg of melatonin 45 minutes before bedtime at the new location. This will help you fall asleep faster, sure, but more importantly, it will tell your circadian clock it’s bedtime and get you used to the new time zone.
Take 5 mg the next evening. Take 2.5 mg the next evening. Then you are done with melatonin.
Follow all normal sleep hygiene rules
Cut down on artificial lights after dark, wear blue goggles, follow the same bedtime routine you follow at home, read some novels in bed. All sleep hygiene rules still apply.
What to do next day
Exercise outside in the early morning sun
Go for a jog, do a few sprints, or work out outside in the sun. If you can make it by sunrise, all the better. Intense physical activity coupled with the AM Sun helps establish and promote your new circadian rhythm.
Keep the strategies of the previous day
Long walk, lots of light, staying active, no naps, regular meals. Keep doing this to keep the customization.
Common mistakes people with jet lag make
Take a nap when they arrive. This is meant to “defuse” things, but all it does is keep your circadian rhythm aligned with your home time zone, ruining your ability to adjust to the new time zone.
Avoidance of melatonin. People think taking melatonin is “unnatural.” Do you know what is unnatural? Fly halfway around the world expecting your circadian rhythm to adjust on its own. Melatonin is an incredibly useful tool for developing a new rhythm. Everyone should use it.
Whipping and binge drinking. You are tired from the long flight. you are irritable You are nervous. It might feel good to eat a huge meal of junk food and open a bottle of wine (or two), but don’t do it. You’re just backing down.
take it easy Staying loose on the first day feels good because you’re exhausted, but that’s the last thing you need. Instead of “taking it easy” at the hotel, pulling the blinds and watching weird foreign TV, you need to be out and about, experiencing the new place and adapting.
And that ends my jet lag log. It’s easy and feels completely natural. After that, life feels normal and you can just enjoy the journey!
About the author
Mark Sisson is the founder of Mark’s Daily Apple, godfather of the primal food and lifestyle movement, and New York Times bestselling author of The Keto Reset Diet. His latest book is Keto for Life, in which he explains how he combines the keto diet with a primal lifestyle for optimal health and longevity. Mark is also the author of numerous other books, including The Primal Blueprint, which in 2009 is credited with accelerating the growth of the Primal/Paleo movement and maintaining optimal wellness, Mark founded Primal Kitchen, a real food company that sells Primal/ Paleo, Keto, and Whole30-friendly kitchen clips.
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