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Conquering(ish) Jet Lag

Updated: Apr 15

Taylor Swift, after crossing the Pacific to watch her boyfriend play in the Super Bowl, was asked, “How do you not have jet lag now?” To which she responded, “Jet lag is a choice.” This, like everything Taylor Swift does at the moment, seemed to spark a bit of conversation from her detractors. Frankly, it was just another talent to add to her already long list of amazing talents.


For me, however, jet lag is a constant companion, particularly given the fact that London is ten hours behind where I live, and Los Angeles is a further seven time zones beyond that. Jet lag isn't just an inconvenience; it's an all-out war on my body's internal clock, a battle of biology fought across many time zones. As someone whose business trips regularly span 30 to 40 hours from leaving my house to arriving at my destination, I've faced too many sleepless nights and mid-afternoon energy crashes. Whether it's a business trip to bustling Texas or a leisurely jaunt to laid-back Los Angeles, the struggle against jet lag is as real as the stamps in my passport.


But there are strategies to help us cope with the struggles that come with travel.


Understanding the Beast:


Jet lag is a circadian rhythm disorder that throws our body’s internal clock out of sync, making us feel as though we're in one time zone when we're physically in another. Mother Nature didn’t anticipate that we would be able to migrate as far and as quickly as we now can. This misalignment can affect our sleep, mood, and even digestion—because our stomachs can be as stubborn as our brains when it comes to adapting to change.


Symptoms of the Time-Traveled:T


The signs are unmistakable: insomnia when you desperately want to sleep, and sleepiness when you need to be awake. You might find yourself staring at the hotel ceiling at 3 AM or yawning through an important meeting. Beyond these disruptions to your sleep-wake cycle, jet lag can also cloud your thinking and dull your cognitive abilities. It’s not uncommon to feel like you’re wading through fog when trying to focus on tasks that normally require little effort. The out-of-body experiences don’t end there—your overall energy levels can take a hit, leaving you feeling drained when you should be enjoying your new surroundings or performing at your peak.


Tackling the Symptoms Head-On:


Here's where a considered battle plan is handy. Armed with the right strategies, you can mitigate the effects of jet lag and reclaim your trip from the clutches of circadian confusion.


  1. Light Exposure: It tells your brain which time zone you're in, so I make it a point to soak up some sun (preferably by the hotel pool or a nearby park) soon after landing—or dodge it like I sidestep the aggressive perfume sprayers at a department store.

  2. Melatonin: Think of this as the secret ingredient in your travel toolkit. Taking melatonin supplements—typically in doses of less than 5 mg—can help reset your internal clock. Timing is everything; it’s like perfectly timing a joke to land just right. Always consult with your healthcare provider before taking any supplements to ensure they are safe and appropriate for your specific health needs.

  3. Stay Hydrated: Flying dehydrates you, and dehydration magnifies the symptoms of jet lag. Consider skipping the in-flight cocktails or moderating your libation intake, and drink plenty of water instead. Think of drinking water as refilling your personal Ghatika, ensuring your internal clock flows smoothly through time zones.

  4. Smart Napping: Managing naps is tricky. If I need to rest, I limit it to a quick cat nap, ideally under 30 minutes. Longer naps can anchor your sleep cycle in the deep, making it tougher to sync with the new time zone.

  5. Keep Moving: I may not be the person you spot doing yoga in the aisle, but I still find subtle ways to keep active. It’s crucial to move discreetly to avoid stiffness and maintain your well-being without becoming the talk of the cabin.

  6. Arrive a little early: If you’re traveling for business and time permits, try to arrive a day or two before the heavy lifting starts. Implementing some of these suggestions, coupled with a day or more to acclimate, can help bring you closer to peak performance when it matters most.

Building Your Jet Lag Battle Plan:


Every traveler needs a personalized strategy, tailored to their body’s response and travel schedule. Sometimes, I consult with my doctor, but mostly I use the strategies mentioned with the help of jet lag management apps (like Timeshifter’s Jet Lag) to optimize a battle plan based on specific trip details.


Victory Over Jet Lag:


Winning the war against jet lag doesn’t mean you won’t feel any effects, but it does help minimize trip derailment. With the right preparation and strategies, you can step off the plane ready to conquer your business meeting or sightseeing/food tour marathon.


In the end, jet lag is just another travel challenge to overcome. And with each victory, it gets a bit easier to hop time zones without skipping a beat.




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