In the Suitcase: Getting Over Jet Lag

University of Virginia

University of Virginia

I’ve been back from Thailand for a week, and when you insert a presidential inauguration unlike any other in the middle of recuperating from a 12-hour transition, you get a very sleepy individual.

That’s me. I’ve been nodding off around 7pm every day in front of the TV and taking a two-hour nap in the evening before bed, which doesn’t help in the going-to-bed department. My excuse is that it’s cold out, but in reality I could zap the whole issue by going to bed early. Which brings me to my personal set of tips: How to kick jet lag.

The medical prescription for jet lag is to prepare ahead of time: start getting up an hour earlier every day and going to bed earlier every day before an anticipate trip. Now, that doesn’t always work if you have a job or a life. It’s very similar to sun exposure as prescribed by doctors: go out for only 15 minutes the first day, 30 the next, 45 the day after, 1 hour by day 4. Who does that?

I adjust to jet lag in a less lame way.This is usually for international flights where I’m adjusting to six or more hours of time difference.

1. The night before the flight, I stay up as late as possible. But I manage to get a little sleep – three or four hours – so I’m not an idiot who forgets my passport somewhere or gives the wrong answers to security.

2. Once on the plane, I indulge myself in super fun movies until it’s bedtime in that time zone.

3. Perform usual bedtime routine in the lavatory: brush teeth, wash face, take out contact lenses (except I usually wear my glasses to fly anyway)

4. Pull on eye mask and plump up neck pillow (mine is a kit from the Nap series at Brookstone – makes an excellent gift, too. Jon loved his).



5. Skip trying to sleep on wine or Benadryl. Wine only dries you out so you wake up without a voice. Benadryl makes you extra groggy. Don’t expect to have a real night of sleep on the plane. The flight attendants have an odd method of deciding when the entire plane should be awake, and it’s often in mid-REM cycle.

6.  By the time you arrive, you’ll be exhausted, your body will hurt, your eyes will be purple, and you’ll be running on pure adrenaline because you’re on vacation. If you’re in Thailand, now would be a good time to get one of those Thai massages. You’ll be dead asleep by nightfall, skipping all those sleeping-in-a-new-bed issues and well-rested by morning.

7. Avoid candlelit dinners in the beginning. You’ll only sleep through them. Go to brightly lit restaurants instead with loud music. And if you’re easily wound up by caffeine, don’t try to fight the sleep with coffee at dinner or you’ll never get the bed that night. Just go to bed early and enjoy the deliciousness of sleeping 12 entire hours. This is vacation.



Filed under In The Suitcase

2 responses to “In the Suitcase: Getting Over Jet Lag

  1. John

    I’m lucky, I take medicine every evening that (as a side effect) makes me groggy anyway, so once that takes effect, I’m out cold for a while. I suppose it leaves me a bit groggy in the morning, but not as much as a sleepless flight would…

    Also, for European flights at least, I find that arriving mid-day is best for me. If I arrive in the morning and have to live through the entire day, I’m dead. So now when I have connecting flights, I try to arrange the connection on the European side rather than the US side, since that’ll generally get me to my destination later in the day. Not sure how the timing would work for a 12+-hour flight though.

  2. Josh

    The key to beating jet lag is to have a happy flight. Unless you’re flying in business class or on Virgin America, that’s pretty much not gonna happen. So my best advice is to drink 2 bloody marys either before you board or during the initial beverage service. Good vodka won’t induce a hangover, and 2 little bottles of the stuff is plenty to make you happy and drowsy at 30,000 feet. It tastes really good, and because it’s served on ice and has tons of vitamin C, it won’t dehydrate you. Best of all for older travelers, tomato juice has a unique property that helps prevent potentially dangerous blod clots that can form while you’re on your butt for 20 hours. Just make sure they don’t use too much tabasco!

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