I was in Japan for the last Winter Olympics. I LOVED it because Japanese television crews showed ALL of the athletes. For the first time, I witnessed skaters and snowboarders fail catastrophically, and I can assure you, the judges do award 3s, 4s, and 5s to the pathetic few who actually deserve them.
Why was I awake at 3 a.m. watching figure skaters who sucked, live on TV in Japan? It was jet lag, plain and simple. Traveling westward is a killer for me, but coming eastward home was a breeze, I was reacclimated in 24 hours. I did a bit of research and I have found some things that help reduce the symptoms of jet lag tremendously:
Before you leave, make sure every aspect of your trip that you can control is taken care of. Reducing stress is key, and you don’t want to spend any unnecessary time booking meeting rooms and so forth when you should be sleeping. Get plenty of exercise in the days prior to departure and drink lots of fluids. The dry air on a plane can dehydrate you, cause headaches and swelling, and generally run you down if you don’t get enough to drink. Get a good night’s sleep just prior to departure.
Avoid booze. The cabin is pressurized, but not down to sea level. At 30,000 feet, the cabin will be pressurized down to about 7,000 feet. You’ll still feel some mild effects of light altitude sickness (unless you live in Denver) and the descent to landing will take that light alcohol buzz you have and turn it into an instant hangover.
Understand the time zone you’re headed toward. If you’re in California taking the red-eye to New York, take a blindfold and some earplugs and sleep on the plane! If you’re headed west and you won’t land until the evening hours, take frequent walks up and down the aisle of the plane and stay awake if you can, you want to go to bed as close to your normal bed time in the new time zone as possible. Stay away from sleeping pills. If you’re not used to taking them, you don’t want to discover that you’re susceptible to some of their more significant side effects (sleep walking, lost time, etc.) while you’re moving across the planet.
Get as much exercise as you can. Walking up and down the aisle, standing for spells, and doing small twisting and stretching exercises in your seat all help to reduce discomfort, especially the swelling of legs and feet. Get off the plane at stopovers and take a shower if you can (many international airports offer showers for a small fee). This will get your circulation going and keep your muscles awake.
There is a homeopathic remedy for jet lag in the form of tablets that some people swear by. They don’t seem to work for me, but your mileage may vary. For more information about No-Jet-Lag pills, click here for details.
EXTRA: If you have questions for Ken regarding business travel, hotels, airplanes, etc, please call 1-877-49-EXPERT. Your questions will be recorded and Ken will answer the best ones in his Ask the Expert podcast show.