October 19, 2004 5:55 AM   Subscribe

JetLagFilter: I am flying with a friend from JFK to Hong Kong via Tokyo. From what I understand, we will be flying west / northwest, somewhat towards the North Pole and then back down to Tokyo. What is the best way to battle jetlag?
posted by jasondigitized to Travel & Transportation (10 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
going in that direction, what's worked for me is: fly business class if you can, drink a lot of water, try to stay up until you get there and sleep when you get in. oh, and stretch every hour.

Not much else you can do.
posted by elsar at 7:17 AM on October 19, 2004

not eating the airline food -- especially the economy class food -- helps me a lot. bring a few nontoxic sandwiches and a couple of apples with you. and as eslar said, drink lots of water. and no booze if at all possible
posted by matteo at 7:24 AM on October 19, 2004

Yeah, those "healthy" ideas above might work. But you know what really works? Sleeping pills. Good ones too, not the crap your family practioneer gives you when you ask. The ones your grandmother takes becuase her doctor is sick of hearing her ask for better ones, those are the good ones.

Nap on the plane if at all possible. Stay up until 10 or 11 when you get to Hong Kong. Drink alot of water, pop some pills, chase with a nightcap, lay down.

Get a wakeup call 9 hours later, wake feeling pretty damn good. Repeat over the next two nights, then slowly dial back the pills until you're off them, or you go home.

This avoids the very worst part about jet lag. The 3AM wakeup. Nothing is worse than sleeping 3 or 4 hours, sitting up in bed, realizing that it's 2 PM at home and no wonder you feel like doing something. You lay there for hours, then finally fall asleep and crash half the morning, it's horrible.

Chemistry is your friend.
posted by Keith Talent at 8:26 AM on October 19, 2004

Keith is right. Good sleeping pills - but the kind that don't cause a hangover. I've had good luck with long trans-Atlantic and trans-Pacific flights using 3 or 4 melatonin and a pint or two of water, then a bit more water, take a piss & another 1 when I wake up (if I wake up). Works great - adjusts me to the new timezone - I get there feeling fantastic. I'd also combine it with some B-Complex for the added zing.
posted by luriete at 9:04 AM on October 19, 2004

The cardinal rule of jet lag: Get on local time as soon as possible. Some people think that you can start to cheat, and try to get on local time even before you leave. But certainly, upon arrival, get on local time as soon as possible. This means: spend time in the sun during the daylight hours. This is key to resetting the melatonin that regulates (in some not-perfectly-well understood way) sleep cycles. Also, eat meals at the right times, and try to sleep or at least relax / rest during the nights. But neither of these is as important as spending time outside, in the sun if possible, during the day.

My last trip to Thailand went out in the morning and got into Thailand after midnight (on the second day, so really three days later). I tried to do a bit of clock resetting before I left, by pulling a near all-nighter two nights before and then sleeping some of the day before departure. When you leave from the US at 10:00 AM, it's 11:00 at night in Tokyo. This means that you should do your very best (see above re: sleeping pills) to sleep on the first 8 hours of the flight over. Eat the breakfast on the plane and try to stay awake after that. Brush your teeth, stretch, watch movies, etc. After that, i.e., during your layover and your Tokyo to HK flight, you should try to be awake. This will help you get acclimated when you land.

You'll land at night local time, and probably be pretty screwed from all the flying and time changing, so sleep. I didn't have trouble sleeping my first night. The second night was harder, tossing and turning after about 3 or 4 AM. Many days I woke up early. But I was pretty well acclimated after 2 days. Don't expect to be fully 100% for 4 or even more days. But that doen't mean you'll be unable to function, just that you'll be tired in the afternoon ('cause it's 3 AM at home) and then perk back up around 6 or 7 PM.

I don't know how much the "resetting the clock before departure" plan really worked. I did a bit better than my traveling partner, but I'd bet this just innate differences in constitution and not a result of the behavior.

On preview: what everybody else said. I don't take drugs if I can help it, so I don't do that part, but many travelers swear by 'em. I will be trying melatonin for my next big-hop trips, though. But definitely don't drink, stay hydrated, stretch after sleeping on the plane, bring a travel pillow (the ugly horseshoe ones), and call your mom when you land.
posted by zpousman at 9:07 AM on October 19, 2004

Re. resetting the clock, I find it helpful to avoid thinking too much about what time it is at home. Am I alone in this or is it a common psycological game we all play with ourselves? If the clocks says it's 7PM, well then it's 7PM damnit, regardless of what your body may think.
posted by Keith Talent at 11:33 AM on October 19, 2004

I've only done one transpacific roundtrip, but I swear by Sonata, a great prescription sleeping pill. It acts quickly and wears off four hours later -- usually enough to get me to sleep for eight or nine, as my difficulty is usually one of falling asleep rather than staying asleep. (If you wake up after four hours and want to sleep for another four, just pop another one.)

I re-set my watch when I got on the plane, had dinner, drank a LOT of water (no alcohol), took a Sonata, dozed off five or ten minutes later, and woke up an hour out of Seoul as they were serving breakfast. Easy-peasy.
posted by Vidiot at 1:50 PM on October 19, 2004

Another one here for sleeping pills. I've tried Atival without too much success. Xanax however rocks. It's the absolute best and has a bonus - it contains an amnesiac quality. I take a couple with a some alcohol about 1/2 before boarding (for transatlantic flights, you may have to vary depending on the length of your flight). You'll be sleeping like a baby before your head hits the postage stamp sized pillow they'll give you on board. Also, bring along some melatonin. You can get that at most drug stores; it also helps with sleep.
posted by Juicylicious at 2:16 PM on October 19, 2004

Keith is right. listen to him. However, it is Hong Kong, and the bars are open at 4am, so if you do wake up then, go watch a bunch of people who've been drinking for 10 hours straight make fools of themselves.

Personally, I just try to completely forget what time it is "back home" and sleep as much on the plane as possible. When you get there, do your absolute best not to go to sleep until as late as possible, then crash out for as long as you can. This also has the bonus of feeling like you're sleeping in.

Whatever you do, don't nap during the day.
posted by sauril at 2:25 PM on October 19, 2004

Sleeping pills sound like a dream... but I've never used them. Those Asia flights tend to leave early from the US--like lunchtime. I always have 5 or 6 or 7 drinks with my airplane lunch, stick in my earplugs and put on my eyeshades, and sink to the bottom of the ocean for a few hours. Wake up, drink coffee, and fight the good fight until it's bedtime in Asia. Ideally, stay up/out late your first night.

This pattern has yielded *excellent* results for me--meaning that I wake up at 8am every morning bright-eyed, without an alarm clock. And that never happens to me here in NYC.
posted by armchairsocialist at 9:49 PM on October 19, 2004

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