Recently coming out of the worst jet lag I’ve ever experienced — and to top that off, starting on a new job with a big jet lag — I can safely say that memory is one I never would want again: feeling tired exactly nine to five, then not being able to fall asleep at night until at least 6AM; every awake minute after 10PM is a torment: should I stay in bed and risk wasting time not falling asleep, or get up, do things, and risk the possibility of sleepiness actually creeping in?
To help prevent myself from that experience again, I’ve compiled the following tips for overcoming jet lags.
1: Face the problem. Jet lag exists, hurts and lingers, so pretending it isn’t there won’t help. And not having them for the previous international trip doesn’t dictate the same experience for the next one.
2: Know what to expect. Many websites have calculators that suggest the likely number of days needed to overcome jet lag, given departure and arrival locations. In general, number of days of adjustment needed when flying from west to east is half the number of time zones crossed, and east to west, two-thirds. As an example, a flight from Shanghai to Vancouver crossing 8 time zones means a 5.3-day recovery period, while Vancouver to Shanghai takes 4 days.
3: Don’t be afraid to take necessary medication. If you can’t fall asleep, you could consider trying sleeping pills; if you can’t stay asleep, maybe consider melatonin. After 5 days of hanging-in-there and showing up in the office like a zombie, I took 1 sleeping pill and 2 melatonins one night. Next day, my jet lag completely went away. After that, I’ve decided to not travel across time zones without these pills. I used to have strong faith in letting my body do its natural job, until a few weeks ago when I was staring at the ceiling at 4AM, realizing: jet lag doesn’t happen in nature until we invented air travel!
4: Give yourself time. Again, jet lag is a real problem, so there is a chance that none of the above will guarantee a seamless time zone adjustment. In that sense, plan ahead! If you are going to a different country for a super important conference, interview, job, etc., you have a much better chance if you arrive a couple of days early, and fight off the jet lag before the big thing comes up 🙂