How to jettison jetlag?
September 24, 2008 5:42 AM   Subscribe

I'm travelling on a short trip to New York, from the UK. The last two times I've travelled to the US (Las Vegas, New Orleans) the first few days of my break have been ruined by jetlag - waking up at 4am and being zombified by early evening - but, this was ok because they were 10 and 14 day holidays. However, my trip to NYC is for 3 days. How can I try and combat this on such a short trip, without losing the couple of days I have in New York?
posted by metaxa to Travel & Transportation around New York, NY (14 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
Here are a few tips:

-On the plane, set your watch to the destination timezone and get your mind set there too.
-Try to sleep on the plane if you can.
-Don't drink alcohol the day of (or before) your flight.
-Drink a lot of liquids on the plane.
-When you arrive, don't pass out right away. Try to stay up until at least 10pm local time before finally going to bed.

Good luck!
posted by nitsuj at 5:46 AM on September 24, 2008

Does your trip require you to keep conventional business hours? New York is an interesting place at night and for 3 days I'd be tempted to just keep the UK sleep schedule and not bother with adapting.
posted by Inspector.Gadget at 6:03 AM on September 24, 2008

I've done this a few times. My advice: assuming you're arriving afternoon/early evening, get to your accommodation, shower and change, and get out and stay out till 10 or 11pm. Go to bed; sleep. When you wake at 3am or whatever, don't get up and about - treat it like sleeping in after 8at home if you can. At 7 or 8am, drink coffee, shower, get outside into the sun - all the indicators of "morning".
posted by game warden to the events rhino at 6:14 AM on September 24, 2008

Second the advice to force yourself to immediately adapt to the local time zone. Definitely avoid alcohol as well. In addition, I'd recommend taking something like Ambien or another prescription sleep aid to keep you asleep rather than waking up at midnight or 1AM. I used Ambien the last time I went across the Atlantic, and I was able to immediately hit the ground running with no perceptible jet lag.
posted by valkyryn at 6:27 AM on September 24, 2008

I do this semi-regularly for work. The only thing that really works for me over short 3-day hops is to get a flight during the day so you arrive in NYC mid-afternoon/evening, then stay up until 10/11ish. Crash out and then force yourself to get up at a reasonable hour on your first morning in the city (say 8am). Staying up until what feels like 3-4am should zonk you out enough that you don't wake up until dragged out of unconsciousness by your alarm. If you're in a hotel, get breakfast delivered to your room so you have to get out of bed to answer the door. Eat a good breakfast (time zone changes leave my appetite all out of whack) then go about your day as normal. Resist the sleepiness that sets in around 2ish.

If you follow the tips above and manage this on the first morning, you'll adapt surprisingly quickly. A lot of jet lag is physical, but an equally large component is your own mind, doing things like looking at the clock and going 'Oh god, it's four in the morning in the UK and I'm still awake'. Don't do that, and you'll switch to NYC time to an acceptable degree in a day or so.

Coming back on the other hand, I still haven't figured out. It KO's me for three or four days minimum.
posted by Happy Dave at 6:43 AM on September 24, 2008

Here's what I manged last time, and kind of beat jetlag:

I ate a big-ish meal for a couple nights in a row at around the same time - 6-6:30pm.
I did not eat the morning I flew nor the evening before, in fact, I was hungry and cranky, but flying alone. I did drink coffee and drink water.

When it was 6-6:30pm New York time, I broke my 'fast.' That night I went to bed around midnight New York time, and woke up 7am the next morning. I had no jet-lag thereafter.

Good Luck.
posted by From Bklyn at 6:49 AM on September 24, 2008 [1 favorite]

When I flew Canada - Europe - Asia and back earlier this year I used No Jet Lag homeopathic pills. I'm normally skeptical about such things, but a number of people I know had used them and raved about them. I slept better on the flights than I ever had before. Arrived in Dhaka in the middle of the night (middle of the day by my body clock) and fell right to sleep, woke up at 8am local time feeling very refreshed and had no jet lag at all, unlike the other 10 people I was with. I'm fully aware that it might just be a moderately expensive placebo, but I'm fine with that. A list of UK retailers is here, and it appears to be called 'Jet Ease' in the UK.
posted by valleys at 7:03 AM on September 24, 2008

If you can get outside - preferably into the sun - towards the end of the day in New York then that is supposed to help your body to acclimatize by signalling to it that it is really evening - rather than the middle of the night.

In the US you can buy Melatonin tablets which are supposed to help you. Melatonin levels normally rise during the day and, when they reach a certain level, signal to us that it is time to sleep. By taking some melatonin in tablet form about an hour before you go to bed the idea is that you give your body a signal that it is night time. In my experience this works best when travelling east so you might want to grab some for when you get back to the UK.
posted by rongorongo at 7:06 AM on September 24, 2008

There's some fairly recent research that suggests our circadian clock (the internal clock that keeps our sleep cycle regular) can be over-ridden by a second clock that gets started when we fast.

Don't eat anything for about 16 hours before breakfast time in New York. This is just about long enough to suspend your circadian clock and kick the seconadry one into action. Then eat a hearty breakfast wherever you happen to be at that time. This meal should re-start your circadian clock and make your body think it really is breakfast time. You should adapt to New York time very easily.

I haven't had a chance to try this myself, I've just read a few articles and heard some anecdotes. If you try it, I'd love to know how well it works for you.

Relevent pages:
posted by metaBugs at 7:16 AM on September 24, 2008 [2 favorites]

metaBugs' suggestion is exactly what I came here to post. I have tried it on red-eyes from Seattle to Charlotte. I needed a brief nap mid-morning at the destination but after that was pretty much good to go all day. It's only three time zones, but it did work great for me.
posted by kindall at 7:29 AM on September 24, 2008

I tried Ambien when I was flying from SFO to the UK, and all it did was make me very relaxed, but still awake. Grrr.
posted by potsmokinghippieoverlord at 11:09 AM on September 24, 2008

Thanks guys and gals. I'll take these tips on board and see how I go. I might not be too bad, as my outward flight is indeed a daytime flight, arriving at around 8pm in NYC.

I shall avoid the booze and will take plenty of water. I'm not convinced about the chemical/herbal remedies, and they seem to be in short supply in the UK anyhow.

When I come back, I'll mark the best answer :)
posted by metaxa at 2:03 PM on September 24, 2008

I'm not convinced about the chemical/herbal remedies, and they seem to be in short supply in the UK anyhow.

Yeah - I don't think you can buy Melatonin in the UK in fact.

Breakfast with free-refills of coffee can be a great help too.

Have a good trip.
posted by rongorongo at 5:27 PM on September 24, 2008

A little late to the party, but I'll toss this into the mix.

Don't wear a watch.

Allow your body to accept time queues from the light cycle of the location. Whenever we hop time zones Mr 26.2 is beaten down by jet lag and I'm blissfully unaware of it. We're almost sure it's because I don't ever wear a watch and take my time queues from the day/night cycles outside. (That said, I'm completely screwed in Las Vegas or other places where you never go outside.)
posted by 26.2 at 8:58 AM on September 25, 2008

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