It doesn’t matter if you are flying across the pond or across the country. Anytime you switch multiple time zones you can be hit with jet lag, the physical and mental disorientation that comes with crossing several time zones. The shift disrupts your body’s natural rhythms (sleep, temperature, metabolism, digestion) and can leave you feeling very out of whack. Here, tips on how to lessen jet lag’s effects.
Before your trip: Even though it can be a challenge, make sure to get plenty of sleep in the days leading up to your travels. Taper off caffeine and start drinking plenty of water and eating extra-healthy foods. If you’re making a really big trip, from the U.S. to Europe or Asia, make sure to budget in some recovery time upon arrival, especially if you’ll be giving a big presentation or will be expected to be alert for meetings or other business stuff.
In the airport or on the plane: Stock up on more water, ideally the largest bottle you can find. Yes, you’ll have to get up to go to the bathroom, but being dehydrated can make jet lag feel much worse. Make sure you have your airplane ammo—sleep mask, an iPod loaded with relaxing music, and earplugs. I pack a soft scarf or wrap that can keep me warm, help me feel comfortable for sleep, and help offset the tired-disorientated-traveler look once I have arrived at my destination. Avoid alcohol or caffeine on the plane—neither will help you sleep, and both can make jet lag worse. Also steer clear of eating a huge burger and fries or greasy slice of pizza right before boarding. Rich foods and feeling overly full will stress the system. It’s better to pick sushi, stir-fry, or a sandwich, and come prepared with other snacks in case of mid-flight munchies. At takeoff, set your watch to the time it is where you’re going to land—that way your brain begins to subtly adjust to the idea that it’s 12 a.m. in New York and you better get some sleep!
Once you’ve arrived: Take it easy. Instead of rushing off the plane and into the new time zone, walk slowly to baggage claim and take some time to orient yourself. Light exercise (walking around the hotel or surrounding neighborhood) will help too and is especially useful if you’ll be spending the rest of your time in a giant conference room. Though it sounds tempting, don’t sleep or take a nap—the worst idea if you are fighting jet lag. If you took the red-eye from the West Coast and it’s breakfast time in NYC, force yourself to have a bagel and some juice around 9 or 10 a.m. even though your body may be telling you it’s way too early to eat.