I have written about jet lag many times on how to battle time zone changes and fuel your body with the right foods and of course which ones to avoid.
But after a huge amount of travel recently, I’ve changed my views a little.
I went from the USA to Hong Kong 3 times in an 8 week span. Not only 6 x flights that were 15 hours, but a time change of 13 hours each time, and all this travel took its toll.
Doing these trips back to back, I really learned more about what works than I previously thought.
- Going in the direction from East to West is definitely easier on the body and I think this makes sense. It is better flying in that direction to help fight jet lag as you are up early and tired in the early evening
- Making yourself get up and do what you need to do, does get you on track faster
- Melatonin helps BUT NO OTHER sleeping pills
- Food is huge as its impacts how your body has spikes of energy
- Sunlight and Vitamin D help you capture the hours lost not sleeping
So let me elaborate. Coming back from Asia to the USA is for sure harder than the other direction, so a round the world ticket going in the direction of East to West may have been a better solution even if it would have meant more time flying.
Having a lot of work on, I had to be up early, which for sure helped my sleep at night. before I would just try sleeping when I was tired. That method works but it naturally takes longer to adjust, making my jet lag on my return last at least a week.
Sleeping pills like Ambien are not meant for jet lag. So if you to go down that route, you will only get a few hours of forced sleep that will not help you the rest of the night. Melatonin is a natural way to fall to sleep as it is a hormone the body produces so the pill makes the process happen quicker. Make sure you have 8 hours though as for me melatonin kicks in quick and then can seem to come back for round 2 a little later in the night
Food and drink. 100% if you pound your body with carbs and sugar before bed, you will have a restless night as you have just fueled your body with energy. Alcohol does a similar thing. Alcohol can send you to sleep but when the sugar kicks in a few hours later, it will wake you.
In the morning have lots of protein like eggs to keep you full for longer. Lots of fruit for natural energy, no more than 3 coffees as that can put you on a down turn more than the upturn it’ll offer. Loads of vegetables for vitamins and eat small amounts often, rather than 3 big meals as the body will naturally be hungry at different times. That’s why you get that starving feeling in the middle of the night when you may have had a dinner not long before.
Lastly for me is the Sun. Coming back to winter is for sure against you. The body has missed out on daylight so it craves it. You will get a boost of natural Vitamin D that will make you feel refreshed and awake.
One more thing that helps immemsley is if you are flying ‘up front’. The Premium Cabins make a huge difference in how punishing a flight can be. On daytime flights it’s hard to sleep, whereas red eyes are more naturally conducive. My flight from Hong Kong to LA at midnight was far better than the morning one I took home a few weeks later to Chicago. I really saw a pattern in these tips and hope they work for you.
Daniel Green, the Model Cook is a Celebrity Chef known for his healthy approach to food and living well. With TV, books, magazines and live appearances, Daniel spends his time helping fans to cook better, feel better and live better. He’s also an avid traveler and a self-confessed Foodie.