The Best Ways to Cure Jetlag

I’ve never found a magic cure for jetlag. I really don’t suffer too badly going to or returning from Europe. If I take an overnight flight I just have to force myself to stay up, a short name mid-afternoon is fine but I can’t let myself go to sleep otherwise. The key of course is to adopt the local time as quickly as possible. Coming home from Europe I’m just tired early, and that can last a couple of days, but I’m otherwise fully functional. Similarly coming home from Asia is no big deal, I love making it back mid-day rather than late at night or else I’ll suffer for 24 hours. But my real challenge is going to Asia. I show up and though I may be tired at night I will wake up in the middle of the night. And I’ll be up. And it’ll just take maybe four days to stop doing that.

Still, there are certainly some best practices to adapt better and more quickly to a new time zone and avoid jetlag.

  • If taking a redeye flight, especially one that’s shorter than US East Coast to Asia, don’t drink caffeine and try to get to sleep right away.

  • This is an easy one to say, and one that my regular readers will appreciate, but one that will come off as extremely pretentious to those dropping in here for the first time (who don’t realize that reading this blog will very much help you accomplish this top!): Don’t fly coach. That alone makes a huge difference, both in ability to sleep and in general relaxation/stress mitigation level.

  • Many folks report good success taking No Jet-Lag pills. It may be a placebo, but anecdotally they seem to work.

  • Drink a lot of water. Avoid alcohol, and if you do drink then you need all the more water.
  • Try to adjust to the new time zone the day before flying out. Continue to adjust to the local time by sleeping or forcing yourself to stay awake during the flight.

  • Take a shower on arrival and change clothes. Then stay up until bedtime local time, no matter how tired. A quick nap is OK, but that’s it. If it’s sunny, take a nice long walk.

Last week I got an email from the Cherry Marketing Institute (@choosecherries) and they’re promoting the idea that tart cherries provide a natural dose of melatonin, which should be good for preventing jetlag and adjusting to local time.

They passed along some research that suggests these cherries are a good way to get the melatonin that helps regulate biorhythm and sleep patterns. They suggest melatonin an hour prior to sleep time on the plane and for three evenings after arrival. And of course dried cherries can be taken through all but the most respect my authoritah checkpoints.

I don’t know whether it’ll work or not, but they want folks to try it and are sponsoring a giveaway to prove their point. One blog reader will win:

. A four lb bag of dried cherries

. A Kashmere red pillow case-socks-shawl travel set

. A Tory Burch Cosmetic Case

. A Cherry Marketing Institute tote bag

Just leave a comment to this post by noon Eastern on Monday July 5 about how you deal with jetlag, one comment per person, and one commenter will be chosen at random to win the prize. Any questions? Drop me an email.

About Gary Leff

Gary Leff is one of the foremost experts in the field of miles, points, and frequent business travel - a topic he has covered since 2002. Co-founder of frequent flyer community, emcee of the Freddie Awards, and named one of the "World's Top Travel Experts" by Conde' Nast Traveler (2010-Present) Gary has been a guest on most major news media, profiled in several top print publications, and published broadly on the topic of consumer loyalty. More About Gary »

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  1. I fly EWR-LHR about once a month. I take the morning flight (9AM) and get to LHR at 9:30 local time (but feels like 5:30 to me). If I’m in London that week, then I taxi to the hotel, if on the continent, I hit an airport hotel. Either way, I get to sleep around midnight or 1AM local and sleep til around 6 or 7AM local. That’s a full night sleep and puts me on UK time.

    If I’m headed for the continent, I take a flight from LHR that gets me to the destination hotel at check-in time.

    Yes, it kills an extra day compared to a red-eye, but makes me far more functional all week.

    Return is as early as possible local time, nap along the way if I can.

  2. Sunlight is the key. I set out in the sun long enough to give my body a sense of the sun moving across the sky (about an hour). This resets my internal clock to some extent.

  3. Sonata (Zaleplon) and bourbon. Repeat if necessary. They only stay in your system for 3-4 hours, so ideal for crashing out on the night flights from the east coast of the US to western Europe. Then coffee all day the next day and a reasonable bedtime.

  4. MSW. Melatonin, Sun, Water. And sleep on the plane according to the destination time zone.

  5. I try to adjust a day before I leave and make my sleep schedule in sink with the local time before I leave. I like to take a run outside when I get there if the weather is right and then take a nice warm shower.

    I also drink lots of water.

  6. First, business class with a true lie flat seat is the biggest helper!

    Otherwise, for me it is all about timing of flights, making sure I dont arrive in a distant time zone in the morning. From the west coast US I take the latest departing flights to Europe and sleep as much as I can on the flight, have a “short” day on arrival and then go back to sleep. From Asia back to the US I love the SQ nonstop into LAX, arriving in the evening.

  7. I try to get a bit of sleep on the plane and I stay up until a reasonable bed time at my new time zone.

  8. I think it is best to avoid the entertainment system if you need to sleep on the flight to adjust, as I will fall asleep out of boredom. If you need to stay awake the entertainment system becomes your best friend.

  9. I am having the worst jet lag for travelling to 3 different time zones within 4 weeks (to Ukraine / to New Caledonia / to Belgium). I think I ignored the drink-plenty-of-water-and-no-caffeine bit on my flight back from Belgium and now paying the price. I had some cherries when I arrived in Belgium last week and come to think of it, yeah no jet lag when I was in Belgium. So I guess cherries do cure jet lags…

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