Traveling: Defeating Jet Lag and General Fatigue

Tuesday, March 13, 2007

I love traveling. Actually, allow me to clarify that statement. I love being places; I just hate getting there.

The worst part of traveling, especially internationally, is the actual process that it takes to get to your destination: airports, flights, connections and layovers. Since I do a decent bit of traveling, I've done some research into various tips and techniques for overcoming jet lag and general fatigue. Here are some of the ones I employ.

Before you leave

Eat lightly
Try to eat smaller meals before you leave. Smaller meals allow your body to function normally and without extra strain. This seems to speed up the adaption process.
Avoid caffeine
Caffeine will actually dehydrate you, which is worse on your body than the sleepiness jetlag creates. Try to avoid caffeine before and during flights.

On the plane

Change your clocks
Change your watch to the time of your destination as soon as you board the plane. This helps you to know how to act in relation to the time where you are headed.
"Sleep East, Party West"
Memorize this one. The basic jist is that if your are traveling eastbound for a long distance (USA to Europe or the Middle East, or from the Middle East to East Asia), get to sleep as quickly as possible. I generally try to hit the sack just after the meal. This is easier when the in-flight movies are bad ones. Of course, if you're traveling westbound, pray for good movies.
Don't do drugs
I personally don't take sleeping pills. I believe it's better to trick my own body rather than turning that control over to a drug. I'm not paranoid, but in case of an emergency, I'd rather be at my best. Besides, when was the last time Jack Bauer took sleeping pills?

Sleeping on a plane

When I'm in a bed, I generally sleep pretty soundly. Attempting to sleep upright in an uncomfortable airplane seat is another matter. I generally don't sleep well on planes, but as I've discovered, I don't really have to. The trick to convince my body that I did.

Generally I just put my seat back as far as possible, try to get comfortable, close my eyes, and pretend I'm asleep. Laying still and relaxing is still restful, which is at least somewhat helpful for my well-being. (After all, I've got the dark cabin, the whole jet engine thing going on...that always helps.)

There are several things that I do in order to lend credence to my pretend sleeping.

Brush and floss
I'm not kidding. Remember, the trick is to convince your body that you've slept, which means going through the whole pre-bed routine. Besides, it's just easier to relax with a clean mouth.
Take a whiz
This ties in with the whole pre-bed routine, but it's also a common courtesy to the other passengers sitting around you. There are few things more annoying than being woken up on a plane in order to let someone out to go to the bathroom.
Maneuver for empty seats
Since it's easier for me to sleep horizontally, I try to scout out locations with empty adjacent seating so that I can sprawl. This can be fairly difficult on international flights, however, so I generally try to get a window seat so that I can lean against the cabin wall.
Pack an eye screen
Sure, they look stupid and senior citizen-ish, but if you can swallow your pride and wear one, you'll be glad you did. (If you've ever been to a northern hemisphere country where the sun comes up at 3 in the morning, you'll quickly realize the necessity of an eye screen!) Some airlines give these out for free.
Ear plugs
Slightly more annoying than the fellow passenger that has to pee five times during the trip is the baby that won't stop screaming (or the idiot who is playing his crappy rap music on his iPod so loud that anyone withing 5 rows can hear it). Don't get me wrong; I love kids, but just not when I am sleeping pretending to sleep. Just remember, there's a "trick" to rolling up earplugs, pulling up on your ear with the opposite hand (from behind your head), then holding them in place while they expand.
Travel pillow?
I haven't had much success with these, but other people seem to love them. I'll let you make up your own mind on this one.
Nab and extra blanket
Those thin airline blankets sometimes don't do an adequate job if the plane turns suddenly cold. Having an extra blanket helps to cover any uncovered parts of your freezing body.
Take off your shoes
This is usually not an issue for me, as I generally wear athletic shoes when traveling. Not only are they comfortable, but they contain no metal, which makes it much more convenient when navigating airport security. Because my shoes are comfortable, I have no problems sleeping in them. If I were wearing heavy dress shoes, however, I would take them off in order to maximize my comfort. Just be sure you're wearing a clean pair of socks.


Anonymous kinzi said...

Good points!!! Especially for men, my husband follows them all. Lucky duck.

Even when we are traveling with kids, he does this. I conversely, can NEVER sleep on planes,(although I do pretend if I have an overly talkative row-mate)so I get to do ALL the kid duty. And I can't resist the coffee on Lufthansa on the leg toward Chicago. Maybe I'll post about tips for traveling moms on kid-duty!

Oh, and the kids pray for suitable movies in advance!

3/13/2007 11:49 AM  
Blogger Dave said...


As you say, traveling with kids is a different story. It's hard to create tips for kid travel, as the tips would vary depending on the kid's personalities and age ranges.

If I had to offer up a single tip for traveling with kids—one that works for kids of nearly all ages (including me)—it would be this: portable DVD player. It's priceless.

3/13/2007 12:14 PM  
Anonymous Palforce said...


Thank you for the timely tips.
About the kids, we are taking the "shutup juice" just in case, but elhamdelah our kids sleep by 8, and we are traveling at night , so they should be sound asleep most of the time.


3/13/2007 12:19 PM  
Anonymous salam said...

Like Kinzi, i wish I could sleep on the plane, while my husband just dozes off like a baby..but your portable DVD advice is in fact we are thinking about getting one to use in the car on long drives to aqaba..

3/13/2007 12:33 PM  
Blogger mac said...

i had no idea you had this blog. i have some reading catching up to do. it's good to see you're also an award winning author. haha.

3/13/2007 5:57 PM  

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