I’ve traveled more than 2 million miles and have endured many dramatic time-zone shifts. I’ve learned the hard way when it comes to managing jet lag and the best solution is a common sense approach.
1. Adjust your sleep pattern. Calculate when you’re going to arrive and adjust your sleep pattern, especially on the plane. If you’re going to arrive in Hong Kong at 10:30 pm and you departed Chicago at noon you need to understand that noon in Chicago is 1:00 or 2:00 am in Hong Kong. It’s a 16 hour flight so what’s a mother to do? Sleep like you’re in Hong Kong. That means hitting the sack right after boarding the plane if it’s bedtime in China. The incorrect pattern is to treat the flight like an extension of your day. That probably means you’ll sleep during the last 7 to 8 hours of your Hong Kong flight and arrive refreshed and ready… at 10:30 at night!
2. Plan ahead. A day or two before your departure try to adopt a sleep pattern that will put you on the plane prepared to continue your adjustment to a new time-zone . If you do choose to sleep on the plane, take advantage of the ear plugs and eye masks that some flights provide, or bring along some headphones or ear-buds to listen to music that makes you sleep. Some travelers take melatonin. Also, make sure your seat belt is fastened over your blanket and put a note on your seat-back indicating when you want to be awakened. Flight attendants are sensitive to experienced travelers and they’ll wake you when you indicate.
3. Stay hydrated and avoid alcohol and caffeine. It may seem logical to have a drink or two to help you sleep, but both air-cabin atmosphere and alcohol will dehydrate you. Coffee will do the same. This will add to jet lag and send you into your first day tired and potentially hung-over.
4. Eat light. The days of flight attendants carving slabs of prime rib next to your seat are long gone, but many meal choices on long flights are still high in fat. Try to eat light. Fruit, vegetables, salads and other complex carbs are the way to go. In fact, eating light a few days before a long trip helps as well. It will be much easier on your metabolism and on that difficult first day in a dramatically different time zone.
5. Dress for the occasion. A business suit may make you look like a pro, but it’s no joy on a long flight. I wear light sweatpants, white socks, a light sweat shirt and those little slippers they sometimes have on the plane. I’ll usually jump into the bathroom on the plane and change soon after boarding. Usually you stop at the hotel upon arrival and that’s the place to get dressed for the day.