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TPG reader Jason tweeted me with a question about a problem that plagues many long-distance travelers – jet lag:

@thepointsguy With your constant int’l trips and multiple time zone changes, how do you reduce the effects of jet lag?”

If you’ve never experienced it before, jet lag can be brutal because it’s not just about losing sleep. It can throw your whole schedule – including sleeping but also eating and everything else – and thus your whole trip off.

I find one of the toughest circumstances is leaving a place at night and arriving at night – like flying west across the Atlantic from Europe to the states where your day is super long, or flying east across the Pacific from Asia to the west coast on those night flights where you just fly through an ultra-short day on the way.

But even just flying overnight and arriving in the morning – you can feel fine at first, even great and energized to have arrived and you hit the ground running only to get hit with waves of exhaustion in the afternoon that just torpedo the rest of your day.

Jet lag can throw off more than your sleep cycle.
Jet lag can throw off more than your sleep cycle.

Everyone handles it differently, but I personally find it’s easier traveling west – in the same direction as the sun – which lengthens your day and makes it just a bit easier when it is finally time to go to sleep in your arrival time zone to adjust. It’s what I did on my recent trip to the Maldives, where I went New York to Asia, then the Maldives, then on to India, Dubai and then back to New York, flying around the world going completely west and I managed to avoid jet lag altogether.

When heading to Europe, I plan ahead so that in the afternoon of the day I arrive, I take a 90-minute power nap and make myself get back up and go out dinner and for the evening so that I stay out and awake until a normal time in my new time zone.

In general, one key factor is trying to be as comfortable as possible on the plane so that I can maximize my sleep. In my opinion, there’s no such thing as getting too much sleep on the plane because it’s not like the restful, normal sleep you would get in your bed, no matter how great that first class seat is.

I also try to avoid drinking too much alcohol. I do like a cocktail or two and have a hard time turning down champagne on the plane, but I watch my intake carefully and make sure to hydrate as much as possible since there’s nothing worse than that thirsty, headachey, dehydrated feeling on top of jet lag.

On the plane, I dress in layers to be able to adjust easily to changing cabin temperatures. Sometimes the cabin is freezing, most of the time I find it gets very hot in the middle of the night on the plane, so just being able to bundle up or strip down easily can make a big difference.

Above all, listen to your body and hey, if you want to take a nap when you get to your destination, do it, just be sure you get back up again! I keep the blackout drapes open so there’s natural light in the room since that helps your body adjust its internal clock, as does getting out and walking around in the daylight when you arrive.

Those are just a couple of the things I do to moderate my jet lag. Sometimes it’s unavoidable – but don’t get too anxious or worry about it. It happens, just be aware of your body and what it needs, and take all things in moderation.

So those are a few of my tips, please feel free to share your own!

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