How to prevent exhaustionand jetlag during constant travel?
September 7, 2013 9:05 AM   Subscribe

I am travelling to China from USA, then visiting 4 cities in 10 days, mostly by plane and night train. I know there have been many posts similar to this, but I want to go more in depth in how to prevent exhaustion during constant travel.

I am travelling from USA to China via 4 flights, and then visiting 4 cities in China and then coming back to USA all in 10 days

There are many good ask mefi questions and resources on similar topics, but nothing exactly what I want. I have had extreme exhaustion, and jetlag so bad that I was severely depressed for weeks before. I want to avoid that.

ask mefi1
ask mefi2
ask mefi 3
jetlag rooster
melatonin/fasting for jetlag on ask mefi

Even when there is no jetlag involved, sitting in a car, or train, or bus all day is exhausting, why exactly is it exhausting? how can I negate the exhaustion? I can sit at home in my computer chair watching youtube videos all day and not feel exhausted, so why do I feel exhausted sitting in a bus all day? Exercise, bathing, drinking lots of water, sunlight, and noise cancelling headphones are supposed to help. What are the factors that generally cause travel exhaustion? What are the Hidden factors? and what is order of importance?

Eat/sleep/bathroom at abnormal times?
lack of sleep
lack of exercise
lack of sunshine/being outdoors?
stress/lack of comfort/lack of normal routine?
poor nutrition/dehydration

I figure the more I can mitigate all of the above, the less exhausted/jetlagged I'll be

I have traveled a lot, here is a list of the things I'm planning:

Get tons of extra sleep before I leave, because I'll be at a deficit in the future
Set my watch when I get on the airplane to the time zone where I'm arriving,
Don't drink the free alcohol
Bring an empty bottle for water refills (considering also bringing gatorade packets for electrolytes?)
I ordered a vegan special meal.
I have prepared soft music, podcasts, and movies
I dress comfortable and layered,
Toothbrush, moisturizing lotion, fresh underwear, socks, lip balm
Bringing subway sandwich and cold pizza
I got an aisle seat for walking a ton
Noise cancelling headphones, extra batteries, and airplane adapter
a dead tree paper book for takeoff/landing
a power strip for charging at airports
compression socks to avoid DVT and keep feet unswollen
Immodium AD just in case
xanax script from doc
a small blanket for Sleeping in airports .net
a notebook
a washcloth for bathroom "shower"

I intend to spend half of my air travel walking around or standing, or stretching, doing pushups and situps in the aisle on the plane(is that a bad idea?) I had hamstring surgery recently and I am supposed to avoid prolonged sitting.

I will take xanax when it's time for me to sleep, and I will fast at appropriate times to avoid jetlag. I will give myself a "shower" in the airplane bathroom before going to sleep, and I will wear active noise cancelling headphones for 95% of the flight and train travel. I will constantly drink water, and put moisturizer and lip balm on

I will get sunshine at appropriate hours, and eat meals at appropriate times while travelling. I will be sleeping in hotels with private bathroom, and might get stuck in an airport I imagine.

Any and all help, tips, advice, websites and questions are appreciated.
posted by crawltopslow to Travel & Transportation around China (9 answers total) 6 users marked this as a favorite
Food wise, this is the best travel tip I ever read. Cold pizza will be nice, but a juicy piece of fresh fruit mid-way through an airless sealed off flight will make you feel great.
posted by bimbam at 9:15 AM on September 7, 2013

This is pretty much what Modafinil solves. Ask your doctor.
posted by zippy at 9:35 AM on September 7, 2013

My belief is that the main thing that makes travelling more exhausting than being at home (read in your habitual surroundings, not just your home) is that you are constantly exposed to the unfamiliar. It starts with unfamiliar germs, food and timezone so your body needs to work harder.

You're dealing with unfamiliar people, different cultures and language so your brain needs to work harder as well. Even navigating through new airports/railway stations/hotels, takes slightly more effort because you need to pay more attention to where you're going.

And then there is all the stuff around you that normally doesn't even register. Ever notice how driving a new to you car, even on familiar roads, is more exhausting than driving your car? It is the sum of little things we constantly do and process and take in subconsciously so that they don't even register in your familiar surroundings that all take a little bit more effort.

And you can't mitigate that even with the best preparation in the world. So yes, absolutely sleep and take your vitamins etc but you have basically got a very punishing trip scheduled and it will be punishing.

Suggest you make sure that you can have a couple of days of downtime when you return to catch up with sleep, eat some nutritious meals and do whatever trip follow up you need to do - that could be as unexciting as unpacking and laundry or as complex as finishing the work project that takes you on this trip (if it is a business trip).
posted by koahiatamadl at 9:42 AM on September 7, 2013

I really think it's the lack of circulating fresh air that makes me feel very tired and depleted in airplanes, buses with sealed windows, etc. (as opposed to sitting still at home.) Obviously you can't open the window, but keeping the ceiling air jet shooting directly on you helps a little, at least subjectively. Perhaps a battery-operated, tiny fan would ramp up the felt impression of fresh air and make you feel a little better as well. In addition, if you have time to step outside and fill your lungs with fresh air while waiting to change planes at an airport, I would do so, even if it means going back through security.
posted by third rail at 9:57 AM on September 7, 2013

Also the push up/sit up thing on the plane is a terrible idea. You will be annoying the people around you and the flight staff as there is no way to do this without taking up someone else's personal space. You will stress them out or make them hostile towards you. Not pleasant.

Regarding everything else. I think lack of sleep and the "newness" of everything are the biggest issues. You can't stockpile sleep so make sure you give yourself enough time to sleep when you arrive or if you arrive in the day stay awake until the sun sets and let yourself sleep as long as you can waking up naturally on your own.

As for the newness issue I have found eating a meal at a big chain restaurant overseas really relaxing (mcDonalds in Zurich, the Outback Steakhouse in Thiland). I use to wonder why anyone would but then one time on my own in Switzerland I remember seeing a McDonalds and ordering a (crazy expensive) Big Mac being surrounded by the familiar gave me the energy and break I needed. My husband has found similar success when visiting parts of Asia on his own by going to a movie theatre. Bonus: air conditioning!
posted by saradarlin at 10:21 AM on September 7, 2013 [1 favorite]

I agree with koahiatamadl a lot of the tiredness of travel is all the new stimulation and inputs to deal with. The best way I've found to handle it is to keep things as familiar as possible, familiar smells, tastes a favourite pillow (depending on how light you are travelling even a pillowcase can make the difference). So if you are going to read or watch films while travelling sometimes a reliable old favourite you can dip in and out of easily is better than a new book adding even more new stimulus.

Noise cancelling headphones rock as I find the noise on planes very tiring mentally.

I do a lot of similar things to you, I like to get an aisle seat so I can be up and down all flight (I tend to do a lot of long haul flights 10 hours plus). Push ups don't drop on the floor because there is usually no room and , I usually use the wall in the bathrooms and do upright against the wall kind just to stretch, also do stretches in there as best I can so I don't bother other passengers.

Also drink lots, I mean seriously lots, not just the odd little glass of water they bring around on a plane, you want to be drinking a 600ml bottle every hour or so at least. You can usually get the stewards to refill it for you if you ask. Dehydration can make you not only feel really tired it can make you constipated, which isn't fun when travelling.

I do the bathroom "shower" thing too, I actually find it better to do it after sleeping as it is refreshing and helps wake me up and clear out the fogginess. I also put on some more deodarant as it adds to the feeling fresher vibe(travel sized ones are easy to carryon) If you are female, panty liners changed regularly can help you feel fresher all over too if on a long haul trip(could work for men I guess too).
posted by wwax at 10:25 AM on September 7, 2013

the argonne diet worked so well for my trip to india that i had NO jetlag there despite ~12 hours time difference
posted by anadem at 10:29 AM on September 7, 2013 [1 favorite]

I very, very rarely get jet lag. I've traveled with people who really suffer and have made a study of it.

I think the secret is to travel as light as possible and be totally immersed in the new place. Trying to lug food and blankets and everything from home just reminds you that things are different. Don't check your work emails because it reinforces that you're on the "wrong" time. Eat when you're hungry and drink enough water. Sleep with the blinds open so the sun wakes you to get your body clock reset.

Some people believe it's the opposite - keep as many tethers to your home as possible so you feel comfortable. I'm on the side of total immersion. You have less to carry and you get into the local custom and time zone.
posted by 26.2 at 10:30 AM on September 7, 2013 [1 favorite]

I agree with what everyone has said about newness, but I have a different solution: audio books. Forget familiar foods or pillows.Having an audio book that you can listen you through your trip is the perfect way to calm down with something familiar.
posted by Spurious at 3:19 PM on September 7, 2013

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