Let's talk jet lag.

Sep 28th, 2007, 10:55 PM
Join Date: Mar 2005
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I haven't had jet lag going to Europe. But for some reason when I get home it really hits hard on the third day back. And it lasts anywhere from 2-4 days. Luckily I have 10 days off after my upcoming trip before I return to work.

TRSW is offline  
Sep 28th, 2007, 10:59 PM
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A trusted MD told me he believes Ambien is effective and inducing sleep (or "letting you sleep", as it's often expressed) but that you really need to sleep past the 4 hrs it's working to get any good from it, as you're not getting REM sleep during it's induced period of unconsciousness. That seemed true for me, and I haven't taken it for a long time. If I have them, I prefer Klonopin - a tranquilizer that LETS me relax.

But generally I'm not a good plane sleeper - I give myself a shot at it (I agree, the problem with alcohol is that you may wake up as it wears off) and if I sleep, great. If not, I forge ahead. I don't think there's anything wrong with a little nap after checking in, but more than 90 minutes is risky after 3:00 PM or so ... as far as going to sleep later.

I usually sleep well after a single night without much shut eye, then am back on track.

One trick worth trying: adjust your routine slightly each morning and night for a few days before you leave. If it's US to Europe, get yourself up earlier, and to bed earlier, a little more each day. If you are up at 4:00 AM the morning youleave (and were asleep by 9:00 the night before) you may find it easier to knock off at 9:00 PM on the plane.
tomassocroccante is offline  
Sep 29th, 2007, 02:40 AM
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I was reading Hopscotch's comment on Ambien and had to smile. When you read the fine print of almost any presctiption drug, it's enough to scare you. Compared to some I've read, Ambien sounds fairly friendly.

I've tried Ambien CR specifically for my week-long problem with recovering from east-west jetlag but it doesn't seem to phase me. I still wake up at 2 am after 4 hours of sleep. I guess we all figure out how to deal with this in our own way. For what its worth, I think Ambien suggests that you take the medication on a empty stomach. I wasn't and maybe that was my problem.
sshephard is offline  
Sep 29th, 2007, 03:40 AM
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After trying several approaches I've found my secret to avoiding jet lag: avoid stress. On my first few trips I made all the classic mistakes: left too many tasks/details until the last night, stayed up too late packing, and left for the airport fretting over the things I hadn't gotten done. By the time I got on the plane I was exhausted. I did sleep on the plane, but it wasn't refreshing.

I've learned to avoid all those mistakes. The week before leaving, I finish printing and gathering all intinerary related materials (maps, guide book pages, restaurant lists, etc). Four days ahead, I start hydrating and adjusting my sleep routine, using the same Excedrin PM I will use on the plane. I finish packing two days before departure. No more late-last-night stressing out over what to take (which led to over packing). I start collecting last-minute items in one place, ready to go in the bag. I try to get all household chores/errands finished the day before. In bed by 8pm the last night. (Oh! And I stop reading Fodors a few days before departure...no more looking for that perfect restaurant!)

Departure day has become a real pleasure. I work out longer than usual that morning. Take my time dressing, then last-minute items go in the bag. I eat light that day. At our connecting airport we have a drink and a big bowl of HOT soup. We usually leave the states early evening...by then I'm yawning and ready for sleep. I've never suffered east-bound jet lag since I started this routine.

I've become convinced that pre-trip stress is a major factor in jet lag. Do everything you can to make departure day relaxing and stress-free. Now, if I could only figure out a way to avoid the awful west-bound jet lag!
JeanneB is offline  
Sep 29th, 2007, 08:19 AM
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I think you're on to something there, Jeanne.

For another perspective, this is from Beppe Severgnini's "Ciao, America!"

"First of all, it is my conviction that the degree of misery induced is directly proportional to the individual's awareness of the phenomenon. In other words, if you've never heard of jet lag, you won't suffer from it. But anyone who has read thirty articles and is constantly brooding on the subject is going to have problems. The individuals most at risk are those who use the various anti-jet-lag techniques, such as trying to sleep during the flight, staying awake, eating, not eating, relaxing or doing some physical activity ... "

Of course, jet lag is one thing and sleep deprivation is another. When my friends bought an apartment in Buenos Aires (11 hours from NY on a non-stop - of which there is only one every 24 hrs; all other flights connect, usually through Miami, DC, Rio, etc) they were quick to proclaim that the 2-hr time difference between NYC and BA meant "no jet lag."

In principle that's right: jet LAG is a condition brought on by traveling 12 hrs forward in time in only 6 hours out of your life. In theory it wouldn't exist heading west, when you're taking 6 hrs and making them disappear: I left Paris at 2:00PM, and it was still 2:00 PM when I touched down at JFK! (But either way, Our bodies "lag" in adjusting to the life-rhythms we encounter. Or something like that.)

Although these are two opposite situations, different people will note similar symptoms.

For Americans heading to Europe (and, Jeanne, you've figured out a huge factor with stress and "night-before" anxieties) I think what screws so many of us up for our first days over there - far worse than time difference - is lack of sleep, whatever the cause. We're not meant to sleep 8 hours in an upright position; we're lousy at sleeping in a container with 200 other people and no fresh air; there's too much noise; there's not enough leg room/head room/shoulder room/privacy; beeps and speakers go off and people nearby have a conversation or ring for assistance. That's it! Sleeping on a plane is like sleeping in a hospital, it's all interruptions and no chance to fall into REM sleep. In one someone is always taking your temperature, in the other someone is always climbing over you to get to the lavatory.

For many of us flying long-haul east is worse than it needs to be because it's at night: we should be sleeping but we aren't, etc. (They don't call the midnight flight from LAX to JFK the "red eye" for nothing.) Flying west is a snap, more or less, because it's (usually) by day. So I'm living a 30-hour day coming home from Europe, so what? At least I slept last night and will sleep tonight!

Back to my friends on that flight to Buenos Aires: slight 2-hour time difference aside, they still are in a plane, overnight, for 11 hours. He doesn't try to induce sleep, just works or reads, watches the movie if it's a good one, and he'll sleep when he gets there. She wants to take something, hoping not to lose the night's sleep. Because it's not the time difference at all, it's the other exhausting factors of the long flight and the theft of the night.

With all the tens of thousands of flights to be scheduled, of course there have to be night flights. Some love them, but we seem to tolerate the concept because we like the idea of "not losing a day" of our trip in transit - we lose a night instead, and spend the first couple of days in a fatigued stupor!

I've heard it said that going to Europe for a long weekend is perfect, you shouldn't even try to adjust your inner clock at all - that way when you return you'll still be in sync back home. Ten-to-14 days allow reasonable shifts in and out of zones, also, but "experts" concluded that in 5-8 days or so our bodies/minds are just getting in the swing of things when we say "Whoa! We're going back to the old way!"

Maybe Severgnini is right: if we just ignore jet lag, it will go away!
tomassocroccante is offline  
Sep 29th, 2007, 08:51 AM
Join Date: Jul 2005
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I don't have much of a problem with jet lag, but my husband certainly has more problems.

What we do when traveling to Europe from Toronto - we prefer a flight that lands very early in the morning - 6 or 7 a.m. It can be a couple of hours sometimes by the time all the customs & immigration stuff are over so the city is starting to wake up. Then off to our hotel to drop our bags (something we always arrange with the hotel prior to our arrival). We are now ready for a full day of walking around & touring. We usually collapse quite early in the evening, sleep for 10 or 12 hours & then we're in tune with the local time.

Our last trip to Paris we needed an afternoon nap the first day (well, 4 hour coma, more like) because the flight had been unpleasant and the train into the city took nearly an hour and a half (standing all the way) instead of 30 mins due to something or another, we never found out.

Other than that, the touring the first day with early to bed works well for us. I simply ignore the mutterings of "slavedriver" by my husband.
Joanne28 is offline  
Sep 29th, 2007, 12:13 PM
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Quentin Crisp once wrote that there is no such thing as jet lag - only gin lag! So lay off the sauce
lauralamb is offline  
Sep 29th, 2007, 01:22 PM
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Laura, I love that.

I TRY (not always with success) when stuck in my tight seat on an overnight, to picture the hammock in a stinky steerage class hold - the kind my ancestors might have "enjoyed" on the days long trip over. Helps me think of the flight as a minor inconvenience until we develop the matter-transporting beam. If I actually have something to DO on the flight, I can just call it an "all=nighter". One favorite: a fresh book about my destination.
tomassocroccante is offline  
Sep 29th, 2007, 01:29 PM
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lauralamb, I assume Quentin Crisp would have been referring to a LACK of gin on the flight, not too much, so I think it's a bit backwards to tell someone to lay off the sauce.
NeoPatrick is offline  
Sep 29th, 2007, 03:42 PM
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I did a morning flight from EWR to LHR and found it hard to sleep on the plane, a brief nap was all I could get in. Between the getting up so early and lack of sleep the night prior, the original plan was to get some sleep on the flight over. The morning sun shining in, the lights, and all the busy activity on the plane made it impossible.
trsny is offline  
Sep 29th, 2007, 07:26 PM
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trsny - The idea of a day flight is that you don't sleep on the plane. You arrive in London late, and go straight to sleep.
rkkwan is offline  
Sep 29th, 2007, 07:34 PM
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Yes. I've taken those day flights too, and if you try to sleep the whole way, you will certainly suffer more jet lag. What would you do when you get to London and it is late evening? Stay up then all night and be totally off schedule again the next day? The idea of the day flight is NOT to sleep so that you will when you get there in the evening and then be right on schedule. It certainly does work for me.
NeoPatrick is offline  
Sep 29th, 2007, 07:55 PM
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It seems all these responses just prove that everyone is different in their reaction to Jet Lag. It's interesting, and one can get some hints .
I think it's good to "not worry" if one can't sleep on the plane. Dozing is allright and relaxing...though it's not REM sleep, is it?
Why not just take a benedryl..which makes most people sleepy and relaxed,and it's fairly harmless.Might dry out the nose, but drink plenty of water.
I sometimes feel a little "funny" and sluggish the first day...but walking around , preferably in the sunshine >), and then to bed early gets me in shape for the following day of normalcy.
The theory of the original question is good...taking a flight later so as to arrive overseas later. Most of the country doesn't have a choice of several flight throughout the day.
mari5 is offline  
Sep 30th, 2007, 07:34 PM
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I also find the late flight works best for me. I like to 10pm from EWR to CDG. My "secret" is a steam bath and massage upon arrival. I always book appointments for arrival afternoon and find that the steam and massage energizes me. Then a 90 minute nap, shower and 8pm dinner. By 10:30 or 11:00 I get to bed and sleep late (10:00)the next day. This routine resets my clock and I'm fine for the duration.
Margaretlb is offline  
Sep 30th, 2007, 07:58 PM
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A friend who flies transAtlantic a great deal has this theory: Two nights before your departure get a great night's sleep. The night before, stay up late and deprive yourself a bit. On the flight sleep as much as possible. On arrival day, take one nap, no longer than 45 minutes (I actually cap it at 90 minutes) then stay up until a normal bedtime in your destination time zone. He still has jet lag, but says this minimizes it the most for him.

Jeanne, I only once have been able to be that prepared for a trip. Usually I am just scurrying until the last minute, either getting 2 hours of sleep the night before or even pulling an all-nighter. Then I do sleep on the overnight flight. We usually arrive early in the morning, and with the 90 minute nap and a full night sleep the first night I'm usually fine by the second day. But my problem is as much sleep deprivation as it is jet lag.

The one time I got a good night's sleep before a flight to Europe I didn't sleep at all on the flight and was pretty much just as tired the first day of touring.
noe847 is offline  
Oct 1st, 2007, 03:27 AM
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The one time I got a good night's sleep before a flight to Europe I didn't sleep at all on the flight... <P>

We usually take off for overseas somewhere between 5 and 9pm. Having gone to bed early the night before, I'm usually up by 4am. A good workout and a relaxing day; topped with a glass of wine, hot soup and 2 Excedrin PMs....well, turn out the lights! I'm ready to sleep by the meal is served. I usually make it through about 1/4 of the movie.

But the most important thing for me is a "relaxed state of mind". Knowing I've taken care of everything back home allows me to mentally move overseas. I just can't achieve that state of mind if I'm rushing through everything at the last minute.

JeanneB is offline  

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