To Sleep Or Not To Sleep, That Is The Question

As I sit onboard a flight to Anchorage, 16 hours and three flights in, I am struggling to keep my eyes open.

You’d think that after having flown 9 long haul flights this year, and amassing just shy of 100,000 miles, I’d be used to this kind of trip. I’v never gotten used to it.

I’ve asked literally hundreds of flight attendants and pilots for their secrets to combating jet lag. Each has a different solution – or suggestion – and I’m not convinced anyone’s found a great solution.

I am not one of those people who can keep their body clock in the same time zone, even on short trips, I just can’t do it. So what’s my strategy?

When I’m flying somewhere and landing at night I will stay awake so that I can go to sleep at a semi normal time by local standards. If I’m taking a red-eye I’ll nap if I can, when I can, and try to get onto a regular schedule as quickly as possible.

I’ve tried just about every natural remedy and some of them work, sometimes. Doctors recommend getting at least 4 hours of sleep to help reset your body’s internal clock – the time required varies by person.  Here are some other tips that I’ve gathered over the years (I am not a doctor and this is not medical advice. You should contact your own doctor for medical information.)

  • If you have the option to select an arrival time, choose a flight that arrives in the evening
  • If you have to take a nap, take short naps and get onto a regular schedule as soon as possible
  • Don’t drink caffeine or alcohol for at least 4 hours before you want to get to sleep
  • Drink tons of water the day before you fly and the day of the trip
  • Spend time in the sun and regulate your exposure to light – more light during the daytime and less at night

For me, a 12 hour time difference (Perth, Bangkok) seemed to be the easiest to adjust to while shorter 7-8 (Europe, Hawaii) hour time differences were the toughest, followed by 15-16 hour time differences (Fiji, Sydney).

One thing I did find could impact my sleep patterns was prescription medication.  If you have medicines that you take regularly, make sure you stay on that schedule. Missing doses or taking doses too close together can impact sleep – and jet lag.

I never found a perfect solution, but trying many things might help you find the best way for you to combat jet lag. What do you do?

1 Comment on "To Sleep Or Not To Sleep, That Is The Question"

  1. I also suffer from jet lag every time I travel from Berlin to NY. Its exhausting and I can’t seem to deal with it. And I always try to sleep on the flight. I will try your method next time i go. Thanks for sharing.

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