I have a simple system to beat jetlag that I have been using for close to 20 years now. It takes some preparation and will to adjust your clock, but it works. Desynchronosis is the medical term for jetlag. It simple terms, your body clock is out of sync. Your body thinks you’re in one timezone when you’re actually in another. This is something that a lot of people suffer when they travel internationally.
I used to have a lot of trouble sleeping when I was younger which resulted in my staying awake a lot. This wasn’t very healthy or good for my body, but I did discover one positive side to this. On my long haul flights from Australia to the United States, I didn’t get jetlag. I thought some people got jetlag but it turns out a lot of people get it and I’m the exception, not the norm.
Where you travel can also have an effect on the potency of your jetlag. There is a saying west is best, east is a beast. Travelling one way your days are longer than the other. I have also found that landing in the morning at the destination has always been easier. This just means you need to stay up for longer at your destination.
How do I beat jetlag?
The way to beat jetlag is to get your body back in sync as quick as possible. This means you need to find a way to get your body and mind onto the correct timezone. There are some well-known methods to beat jetlag but I haven’t used any of these methods. My methods are counter to some of the most popular recommendations, but they have worked for me and others that have tried.
What I mean by this is that for the flight I will adjust my timezone to the new one the minute the plane takes off. This gets me looking at my watch and clock at the times it is at my destination. It’s a bit of a trick to get you thinking in the new timezone. I’ve found that having my clock adjusted that I can easily get into the rhythm of the new timezone when I land.
Counter to the popular recommendation of getting a bunch of rest before your flight. I do the opposite. Depending on where I’m going I’ll stay up for 24-30 hours so that I will force myself to sleep when I need to. This sounds crazy, but it has worked for me every time. This can also be achieved by staying up once you have landed depending on where you are flying to and where you are coming from.
Adjust when I sleep
Now that my new timezone in the plane is the same as the destination I then work on adjusting my sleep patterns. To do this I will go to sleep at the times I should be asleep at the destination. This can be difficult if you have been well rested beforehand. This is where my staying awake for long periods of time comes into play. By staying awake for the extra time, I can easily go to sleep when I need to while on the plane to the destination.
Brush my teeth
I brush my teeth before I go to sleep on the plane and then brush my teeth when I wake up. This has always helped by getting myself into my normal routine. This makes my mind think I’m on the right timezone. This is a simple method that I’ve been using for so many years. It doesn’t require any special drugs or anything beyond your usual toiletries.
On my recent flight from Vietnam to Chicago, I enacted my usual avoid the jetlag methods. This meant I woke up around 6 am on the day of my flight and did my normal day. My flight was late that night with a change in Japan the following morning at 10:50 am. I decided that I would stay awake the entire time until I was on the longest leg of my journey. That was Japan to Chicago’s leg at 11.5 hours. I had changed my time to Chicago time as soon as I got on the flight. It was early evening in Chicago which meant I had a couple of hours before I could sleep.
This gave me time to have the first meal, brush my teeth and sleep. I ended up falling asleep at around 11 pm ‘local time’. I did wake up every few hours but I still managed to get roughly 7 hours sleep of the 11.5-hour flight. When I landed in Chicago it was 7 am and I was rested. I went about my normal day and then went to bed again around 11 pm now being in Chicago. It’s day 2 and I have beaten the jetlag because I didn’t get it in the first place.
This method might not work for all due to the fact that you have to stay up for a long time. I went to apples WWDC back in 2006 and I had explained my ‘crazy’ beat jetlag method to a few people, some were sceptical, some decided to try it. For the few people that decided to follow me around San Francisco for the day as zombies but not sleep, and then sleep at a relatively decent hour of 10 pm, woke up refreshed and ready to do the day without any issues. For those that decided to stay at the hotel and sleep. Spent the week as zombies.
This works for me and has for close to 20 years now and I dont think I’ll be changing the method. What methods do you use to try and beat jetlag? Let me know.