How to survive jet lag and have a brain that functions. Ten tips.

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Fly first class and we can lie down to sleep

Fly first class and we can lie down to sleep

Some people seem to survive jet lag with aplomb.  Others, like myself, find it all a bit more of a trial.  Having just returned from Phoenix, Arizona – warm, not wet, windy or snowy – reminded me to jot down a few jet lag survival tips:

  1. Avoid being tired before going, whilst there and sleep loads when you get back.  The less tired we are, the better we cope.
  2. Use daylight.  If it is light outside, make sure your eyes know this and get as much natural daylight on them as possible.  Ditto if it is dark.  I find the first night in the States the hardest to sleep through. No matter how late bedtime was, bang, at 3am I am wide awake.  If this happens, just ride it out.  Open the eyes.  See the darkness. To speed up the transition just pretend to be asleep.  Do not put the light on and read a book or – even worse – get up and visit the local Walmart.  Yes, its a long, boring night, but the next night you’ll be so knackered, you’ll sleep.
  3. Use melatonin to help sleep.  Take about one hour before bedtime.  Poliquin brand does a new product called Restorem which contains melatonin, 5-HTP and phenibut – and it worked a treat, better than melatonin alone.  5-HTP converts to serotonin and phenibut to GABA, both calming for the brain. 1  Incidentally, melatonin is depleted by taking painkillers such as Ibuprofen.  A good reason to follow the following tip:
  4. If work allows, avoid alcohol since it disrupts sleep.  Hangovers do not make for good brain function ever, and are a disaster if coping with jet lag too.
  5. Stop drinking coffee at 2pm or earlier – again to not disrupt sleep.  Although people get used to caffeine and drink it before bedtime – or even during the night!! – if it is still in the system, it stops us dropping into the deepest levels of sleep.  If desperate, try drinking green tea instead.  Of course, if flying west, then drinking coffee until 2pm in the new time zone is no bad idea. 2
  6. Upgrade the flight if possible.  More space, better kip and less stress.  If finances are a problem, at least upgrade on the overnight flight.
  7. At night, eat plenty of starchy carbs to help sleep.  In the morning, eat only protein and fat to help stay alert.
  8. Ideally, bath at night, shower in the morning.  Baths are soothing, showers invigorating.
  9. Taking a nap helps recovery, despite people bleating on about having to stay up and weather the drooped eyelids.  However, snooze for up to twenty minutes and no longer.  After twenty minutes, we start making melatonin, and we only want to make that during the evening and first part of the night.
  10. Drink plenty of water, especially during the flight.  Getting dehydrated makes it hard for the brain to function and leads to cramp.  So when we do finally get to bed, its hopeless if we are jerked from our sleep by an agonising calf cramp.  Water: the drink of adults.  When properly hydrated, it tastes nice.
  1. I stock Restorem at about half price.  Contact me for more details. []
  2. People disagree about when to stop drinking caffeine: some say as early as midday, some as late as 4pm – so I say 2pm as a midline.  It really depends upon how fast we metabolise caffeine – and probably how strong we like our tea or coffee.  Basically, a short nap, if possible, is going to be more effective than keeping going on caffeine.  This is all about optimal brain function, after all. []

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