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What are some ways to reduce jet lag?

Reducing jet lag involves planning before, during and after your flight. The first step is to know the time zone difference between where you are (or will be) and your final destination. Then, start adjusting your schedule in small increments at least a few days ahead your flight to be closer to the schedule you hope or expect to follow upon arriving at your final destination. For example, if you are traveling to a place ahead of your time zone, start going to bed earlier and getting up earlier each day for a few days before your trip.

For the flight itself, set your watch or clock to the time at your final destination to help determine whether you should be asleep or awake. For example, if you are on a 10-hour flight departing at 5pm from San Francisco en route to London, you would change your clock upon departure from 5pm to 1am. Doing so helps to remind you that you should plan on sleeping during the first 2/3 of the flight, corresponding to the middle of the night in London, and stay awake during the last 1/3 of your flight when it will be mid-morning.

Improving your comfort onboard can put less strain on your body. So, wear something comfortable, especially on long flights. While not everyone receives first or business class amenities, you can certainly bring a small neck pillow, light blanket, eye mask and/or ear plugs to make your flight more comfortable. If it makes more sense for you to remain awake on the plane, bring items to occupy your time. One can never count on an airline's onboard video system to be working properly or for it be comfortable to watch from your seat. As most seats do not have access to a power outlet, it's best not to rely on electronics for entertainment beyond the most conservative estimates of one's battery life. Instead, try bringing reading materials, puzzles and other low tech options.

If you arrive during daytime or early evening, stay active in order to stay awake. Freshen up with a quick shower and then get moving. Try taking a walk to not only get a better sense of where you are but to also keep you awake until bedtime.

Generally speaking, eating healthy foods, drinking healthy beverages and being physically active contribute to your body's ability to adjust. So, be sure to stay hydrated and limit your alcohol and, possibly, caffeine consumption before and during your flight. Having lighter meals helps to limit overworking your digestive system. Lastly, simple streches on the plane can increase blood circulation and keep you refreshed. However, with space being as constrained as it is on airplanes these days, expect opportunities for stretching to be quite limited.

last updated 2008.10.19
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