How (Not) to Win the Fight Against Jet Lag

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Happy New Year everyone! I’m fresh off a four-day whirlwind New Year’s Eve vacation to Hong Kong, and… well, it’s actually been one week and I’m finally over the crippling jet lag that came with it.

“You’re crazy,” you may interject. “Why would you travel to Hong Kong for just four days? And why did it take so long to get over it?”

So, I’ll concede to your first question and move straight on to the second one. Here’s my list of mistakes… er, rather lessons learned from the experience. Follow these tips and you’ll be in a much better shape against jet lag than I was 72 hors later!

  1. Get Local

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I don’t care if you’re so tired that forcing yourself to stay awake would be legally considered torture in a criminal court of law. The first thing you should do to acclimatize to a new time zone is to get yourself on your destination time zone as soon as you board the plane.

Is your 10-hour flight leaving at 1 a.m. local time when it’s actually 9 a.m. at your destination? Tough cookies. I hope you preloaded your laptop with the first season of Mad Men or some other fantastic show you’ve been meaning to watch and should be kicking yourself for not getting to. But don’t worry, you have all this time now!

All… this… time….

  1. Rise and Shine!

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This leads me to my next point. You don’t want to sleep during the entire day while you’re on vacation, because I’m sure you didn’t spend a thousand dollars to go to an exotic destination only to eat a pillow for 8 hours. If you’re abroad, find activities that will keep you up, outside, and active until a reasonable time to sleep. If you’re at home, get back into your routine as soon as possible – it will help your body clock find its way back to some semblance of a rhythm.

And if you absolutely must nap, keep it brief – 15 minutes to a maximum of one hour. Any more is certain to disrupt your night’s sleep.

And set an alarm. You’re not fooling anyone with that whole “I’m going to rest my eyes for just a minute” routine.

  1. Drink in Moderation

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Now, it may seem like a great idea to, say, sleep on an 11-hour flight, arrive back home at 8:30 p.m., and say “No big deal, I’m just going to get ridiculously trashed and pass out like every other Friday night.”

Trust me, this does not work. Instead you’ll just be flat out drunk, wide awake, and all alone in your apartment at 2 a.m. And that’s just sad.

In fact, the after-effects of excessive consumption of alcohol can exacerbate jet lag and travel fatigue, not to mention it gives you a piss poor sleep under normal conditions.

  1. Avoid Self-Medicating

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Sleeping pills are a double-edged sword. On one hand, they knock you out. On the other hand, they do make you feel like an extra from the Walking Dead the next day. Take sleeping medication at your own peril, because once again, it’s likely to only prolong jet lag.

Expert Tip: Don’t take sleeping medication with alcohol. Remember, if it’s a verified method of doing oneself in permanently, you probably should consider other options. Plus, it’s definitely not doing your liver any favors.

  1. Exercise

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This is probably the last thing you want to do when you would rather sell your firstborn child to catch a few blissful moments of sleep, which, as the law of life being a crotchety insert-adjective-here goes, is why it’s the best thing for you!

Exercise gives you a boost of energy, releases feel-good endorphins, and all that crap. So give it a try! The daylight and energy it provides is a win-win.

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So there you have it! Remember, the best prescription is to leave rested, force yourself into local time, and do what you would do normally. You can’t completely eliminate jet lag, but you can definitely control how long it shakes its ugly butt in your face with these five easy tips.

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