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How to beat jet lag

I have just flown from Maui to London Heathrow, and I am NOT jet lagged. How did I do it?

I’ve been refining my strategy over many years, trying tips and tricks from other elite travelers, bloggers, and sleep researchers.

What you can expect from this article

If you follow all of the steps to the letter, you can expect to arrive fresh and fully adjusted. If you follow about half of the steps, including fasting, you can expect to arrive tired but functional. If you do one or two steps but don’t fast, expect to feel wrecked.

A little more about me and the strategies

I developed my “easting” strategies from a combination of data from the Harvard Sleep Center and many years of flying eastward. Specifically, I am a half-million-miler on two different airlines with over one million miles of “non-rev” frequent flier flights. My strategies for beating jet lag are hard-won.

Fast for 12 Hours

1. Fast for 12 hours before breakfast in the new time zone. Fasting resets the body’s circadian clock, according to a growing body of research at the Salk Institute. Fasting is the best weapon to beat jet lag. If you take only one strategy, fasting is the most effective. Fasting means no eating, alcohol, or caffeine. Sip only hydrating liquids.

How to plan your 12-hour fast

My flight was scheduled to land at 8 am at Heathrow. This means that breakfast on the plane is served around 7 AM UT. A quick check on Google shows 7 AM UT occurs at 12 AM PST. Subtract 12 hours for the beginning of the fast. So I ate my meal, a big lunch at 12 PM PST (12 AM – 12 hours = 12 PM, which was actually 2 PM CST because I was already en route in Dallas).

Hydrate Properly

2. Hydrate with oral rehydration solution (WHO recipe). Mix into a 16-ounce bottle: 12 oz water, 4 oz high potassium juice (like coconut water, OJ, or apple juice), and 1/8 tsp salt (approximately one small to-go-sized salt packet). Proper hydration helps the body fight fatigue.

Alternatively, you can buy pre-mixed packets of oral rehydration salts to mix into a liter of water. Any oral rehydration salt, which follows the WHO guidelines, will work just fine. I use Tri Oral, Normal Lyte, and Recover ORS.

AVOID ALL caffeine and alcohol because these dehydrate and fatigue the body. If you need to calm jitter pre-flight nerves, try a low- dose of a muscle relaxer or anti-anxiety medication (talk to your doctor about these).

Sleep/Rest As Much As Possible

3. At wheels up, close the shades, turn off screens, take 2 melatonin (tells the body its evening), and take a muscle relaxer.

Avoid screens–including movies, smartphones, and backlit readers–because they emit blue light, which tells the body it is morning. The whole point of these strategies is to convince the body that it is nighttime, no matter where you happen to be. So avoid all screens until breakfast. This is often the hardest step for people. It helps to bring a slightly boring paperback. Goodreads has a book list called “Books I never finished because I fell asleep.” Perfect. Consider the Ink Spell Series.

4. If possible, pony up for a lay-flat seat (this time, I scored comfy pajamas!) and sleep as much as possible on the flight. This means ignoring the meal service and movies, which is very hard after you’ve ponied up for a better seat. I max out frequent flyer miles for upgrading.

Eat a Big Breakfast in Your New Time Zone

5. Eat a big breakfast before landing. I ask the flight attendant to save my dinner and combine it with breakfast.

Congratulations! You’ve practiced self-discipline to improve your travel experience and gain an extra day (or more) of enjoyment. Enjoy feeling fresh in your new time zone.