If you have never had the misfortunate opportunity to experience it, think spring forward times nine. It's bad.
In my case I left Zurich, Switzerland, at 2pm, and my plane landed in Los Angeles at 6pm local time which for me was 3am.
I went through immigration and customs, waited for my hotel shuttle, which took way over an hour, got my bottled water, got ready to collapse in bed - it was probably 9pm Pacific Time = 6am Central European Time, time to get up in Switzerland. And time to go to sleep in Los Angeles.
Coming back is always worse, though.
I was leaving Seattle at 2pm Pacific Time, landing in Frankfurt, Germany ,at 9am local time (midnight at the Pacific Coast), waiting for five hours till my connecting flight for Zurich, Switzerland finally departed, landing there at 3pm Central European Time, my body still thought it was 6am, time to get up and do stuff!! Then why the h*** did I feel so groggy?
It's not only the time difference that leaves you feeling tired, uneasy, bloated, headachy and the like, it's also spending many hours cramped into a narrow seat in high altitudes with dry air. Oh, and bad airline food, yuck.
Here are a couple of tips on how to relieve the impact of air travel and jet lag:
- If you can, book flights that arrive late into the day, so you can go to sleep as soon as you arrive
- During a west-bound flight don't sleep. The trip just adds hours to your already long day, but you're much better off traveling this way.
- On an east-bound flight try to sleep. Easier said than done, I know.
- Say no to alcohol and caffeine. (Sorry!) No sleeping pills either. It messes up your body. It is confused enough as it is.
- Drink lots of water, even if it makes you go to the tiny bathroom in the aircraft, and you have to ask your seat neighbour to get up so you can climb out.
- Move around in the airplane or even in your seat. Bend and straighten your feet and toes to help the blood flow and prevent deep vein thrombosis.
- Upon arrival, follow your usual routine like meals at a certain time, bedtime when you usually do (this one is the hardest. I fail. Every time.)
- Take it easy for the first one or two days. Get enough sleep.
- Only drive when you feel really awake. Somebody once told me there is such a thing as driving under the influence of jet lag. I guess it's true.
- Keep busy. Walk around, unpack, do laundry, shop. Don't sit down, don't spread out on the beach towel. Don't nap! Really - don't! It backfires!
- Get sunlight. At least fresh air and daylight. It tells your body it's daytime.
- Don't make important decisions. Not only are you sleep deprived, your whole organism, hormones included, are confused.
PS: this entire post has been written under the influence of jet lag. Of course, right?