Jet lag remedies that work... It used to be a dream for me.
But after 15 years of trial and error, and, ahem, some growing up, the dream of beating jet lag came true.
As I am writing this page I have been back in Australia for 72 hours, and over the last three days I did not experience any jet lag symptoms whatsoever. Nothing. Nada. Niente. I'm fine. Cured from jet lag for good.
If you read the introductory page about Preventing Jet Lag, then you know that in the past I suffered from jet lag badly. I also mentioned on that page that I used to do EVERYTHING wrong that you could possibly do wrong if you want to avoid jet leg.
On this page I tell you what exactly I did wrong, and how you do it right, so you too can beat jet lag.
There are two major mistakes I made, mistakes that are easily fixed. And then there is one neat trick that turns the whole program into an effective natural jet lag remedy that works.
In my first few years of flying back between Germany and Australia, this was my biggest mistake. Back then alcohol was still flowing freely on most airlines, and I sure didn't mind a free drink! Or three or half a dozen...
These days the airlines are less generous with their alcohol. But even that glass of wine you have with dinner makes a big difference! Any alcohol is pure poison when flying.
High altitude multiplies the effect of alcohol on the body. Alcohol dehydrates you, it messes up your brain and body chemistry and it disturbs your sleep patterns. Yes, even a little bit of it will worsen your jet lag symptoms. Don't touch it! Don't touch it the evening before your flight either.
Coffee and tea, as well as any sodas with caffeine, also interfere with your wake/sleep patterns and body clock. On top of that caffeine is a diuretic, causing dehydration. And dehydration is your worst enemy on long haul flights!
Instead of looking to stimulants for a jet lag cure, focus on drinking lots of water.
Read through any jet leg tips anywhere, and you'll find the same advice. No alcohol, no other dehydrating drinks and no stimulants. Only drink water, water, water.
Ask the flight attendant for a whole bottle (you'll never get enough if you have to ask for every little cup full). Even better, bring your own bottle. You can't take liquids from the outside on planes, but maybe you can buy a bottle after passing security, or fill an empty bottle from a drinking fountain.
You can't drink too much on a plane. If you have to run to the toilet all the time, all the better. Moving around and keeping the blood circulating also helps with jet lag.
Sleeping medication does not induce a natural sleep. It'll knock you out but it won't alleviate the jet lag symptoms, i.e. the groggyness and headaches, or the inability to sleep at night. Taking sleeping pills during the flight is even dangerous because it affects your circulation. Do you really want to risk a blood clot in your legs or even in your lungs?
(I am talking about standard sleeping pills here, the prescription type barbiturates etc., and also the over the counter histamin based pills. The controversial melatonin falls into a different category.
I used to take it melatonin, but while it helped me go to sleep in the evening, it didn't make me sleep through a night, and I still felt very groggy during the next days. Melatonin sure is no miracle jet lag remedy.)
This one you also find written up in all the jet lag tips: no matter how tired you are when you arrive, stay awake. Don't go to sleep until 10 or 11 pm.
Sorry, but this one I can't do. It's fine for flights with say 12-18 hours travel time. It does not work if you spend 30 - 40 hours door to door like I do.
If you can manage to stay up, great. If you don't, there's still hope.
Stay awake as long as possible, and when you have to crash, make sure you don't stay in bed for too long. Ideally you only have a nap... Just do the best you can do.
I sleep a few hours during the day, and I still sleep at night and feel great the next morning.
So far I just repeated what most people already know. Those points can't be stressed enough.
However, now we get to the jet lag remedies that you do NOT find listed in any and all list of jetlag tips...
Do you like airplane food? Do you mainly eat it because you are starving? I only ate it because I was bored stiff...
Airplane food sucks. But that's not the main reason to avoid it. The main reason is that your digestive system has a LOT to do with setting your internal clock. That's why there is such a thing as a jet lag diet.
Jet Lag diets are specific diets that you have to start four days before departure, and you have to watch what you eat and when you eat it.
But there is no need to make things so complicated. Eat lightly on the day of departure (or the previous day if you leave early). And then just don't touch the airplane food, instead take your own food with you.
Eat as little and as lightly as possible during the flight. The ideal food to take with you is fresh fruit. Also check the special meals your airline offers. On my last flight I flew Lufthansa and they offered fruit platter as a meal option. Perfect.
If you can not take enough food, stick to the very lightest fare available. When changing planes, scour the transit area of the airport for a juice bar or a salad bar.
Be careful with the salads. They likely use ready made dressings full of chemicals and harmful fats. Not good for you digestion and not good for jet lag! Also stay away from salads with eggs, cheese, meat etc. Fresh, raw fare would be best. Just fresh fruit would be ideal.
If you feel you can't go for that long without a "decent" meal, oh well, you'll have to suffer through the jet lag then. Please do not underestimate the importance of this point!
This last point is a neat trick that I picked up somewhere on the internet. And for me it worked.
Have a short fast! Fast, as in have nothing but water, for 16 hours before you have breakfast at the new destination. It improves sleep quality and it really helps reset the body clock.
So regardless of when you leave or when you arrive or how long you are in the air, figure out when you'll have your first breakfast at your destination. Count back 16 hours from that, and that's when you stop eating.
If you have hunger pangs, drink water. If, as recommended, you ate very lightly or fruit only in the 24 hours beforehand, you shouldn't feel too hungry.
If you do, make your choice: a few hours of being awfully hungry, or a few days of being terribly jetlagged. Which do you prefer? If you ever suffered from jetlag like I used to, it's a very easy choice.
Want to be safe? Do it again the next night. Stop eating at 4 pm.
My flight left Munich in the evening. My last meal in Munich was a salad in the afternoon.
Lufthansa served me my requested special meal, a fresh fruit platter, for dinner and breakfast. I also had some fruit with me which I had during my stopover in Singapore. At 4 pm (note: that is 4 pm at my Australian destination), still at Singapore airport, I stopped eating.
I arrived at home in Australia at 7 am the next day and had breakfast between 8 and 9. Then I managed to stay awake for another two hours and eventually I slept. I woke up at 3 pm (set your alarm if you need to, don't get up later than 4 pm).
I had another meal wich I finished around 4 pm. After that I only had water, and I went to bed at 11 pm.
I slept like a baby until 7 am. Thas NEVER happened to me before, even with sleeping pills! I awoke without an alarm clock, fully refreshed. And I was perfectly fine, with a clear head, energetic and happy, for ALL of the next day.
Sure, I did feel that I hadn't slept much in the previous nights. But there was no leaden feeling in my legs or head, no groggyness, no headache, no jet lag symptoms whatsoever! That has NEVER happened to me before.
Try it for yourself. This natural jet lag remedy is free, simple and safe. Even if it doesn't cure your jetlag, it will still make you feel a million times better than you would on booze, coffee and a stomach full of airplane food. You can only win!
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