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Last site update:
2020-11-29 13:47:07

I've been privileged to be invited to speak at a lot of conferences outside the US. As a result, I've made more than the average number of international (transcontinental) flights.

I have a formula I follow which helps with jet lag. Each of these steps helps a little, and the combination seems to help quite a bit. The key thing to note is that you want to get your body adjusted to the destination time zone as soon as possible.

Like many people, I have more trouble with the West to East trips than the other direction. But regardless of the direction of travel, the basic idea is to try and get your body adjusted to the destination time zone as soon as you can. Depending on your arrival time (local destination time zone), this often means staying awake extra long when going West, and going to sleep as soon as possible when going East.

Here are the general rules I follow:

  • Get your body into the destination time zone as soon as possible.
  • Drink lots of fluids, avoid caffeine
  • Noise-reducing headphones greatly reduce the grind from the engine - whether you play music or not
  • An eye mask is helpful in sleeping
  • A good inflatable pillow is helpful
  • I prefer window seats for sleeping.
  • I also use 5 mg of sublingual melatonin taken right after the in-flight meal. It seems to combine nicely with the effects of the food to encourage sleep. Sometimes I take this for the first 2 or 3 evenings at the destination as well.
  • Once you arrive at your destination, spend as much time in the sunlight as possible for the first day or so. This helps your body reset your body clock.
  • Avoid going to sleep in the middle of the day local time zone, instead go for a walk or something that will expose you to sunlight, if possible.

How does this all work out when going East? I live in Denver, so ideally, I'll typically prefer a direct flight from Denver to London or Frankfurt. Usually these flights arrive in the early morning, and I like to get to sleep before midnight in the arrival time zone. If I fly direct from Denver, then I get time for at least 5 hours of sleep before arriving. If I fly through Chicago or worse yet, Dulles, I get only about 3 hours to sleep.