I just spent three weeks in Southeast Asia, flying all the way from Florida to Bangkok and then returning from Hanoi. This kind of trip throws your body for a major loop: when it’s noon at home, it’s bedtime there. You’re literally a day ahead of where you left from, then you go back in time when returning. I once arrived in New York City from Seoul about the same time and date as when I’d left. That’ll really mess with your head and your body.
I’ve tried about every remedy for jet lag there is over the years except a sleeping pill and my wife has tried that one. Here are a few myths, a few cures, and one key thing to keep in mind.
Jet Lag Myths
There’s a “cure” for it. This is the big one. You can alleviate the symptoms and speed up the recovery time, but the only real cure is time. Your body needs to get its circadian rhythms back in sync, which means your body clock needs to reset. This takes time and a readjusted sleep pattern.
Drinking to excess or taking a sleeping pill will do it. These things can help you sleep on the plane, which is a good thing, but being immobile on a plane for 6 hours straight has its own health risks. Plus going through customs and baggage claim drunk or sedated at 8 am is not generally a good idea.
Go first class and you’ll be fine. True, you’ll get a better sleep on that lie-flat bed some airlines provide, but your body clock will be just as far off as those who suffered through (and paid less in) economy class.
A radical diet change will reset your body clock. Surf through sites with advice on jet lag and you’ll find plenty of diet recommendations that if followed exactly, will magically transform your experience. If it works for you, great, but scientists have had a tough time proving any effectiveness for this method. Plus it’s five days of remedy to alleviate two days of symptoms.
As for me, I’ve had pretty good luck taking Melatonin for two nights at bedtime after arrival. This is a synthetic hormone though, which sounds a little scary and it’s certainly not something you want to take long-term. (See more from the Mayo Clinic here.) It’s cheap, easy to find, and effective for some people though and is approved in the U.S. as a dietary supplement.
No Jet Lag pills are not a hormone and are homeopathic. You can see the five ingredients here. I used this for the first time on this last trip, leaving the melatonin at home after the company sent me some samples of this for me and my family. We all took it going over and I took it coming back. It didn’t work so well for my daughter, who was dealing with jet lag for the first time, but I’m sold. Both there and back I popped these every couple hours on the way as the directions prescribe, went to bed early on night one, and was pretty much normal by night two. Same results on the way home.
My wife didn’t take these as she was on a separate flight and she had a tough time on the return. She popped a sleeping pill on the way, which helped for the plane, but didn’t help the adjustment once she was home. She was up in the middle of the night and couldn’t get back to sleep.
So what’s the key thing to keep in mind? That there’s no real “one size fits all” solution. I sleep like a log once I’m down and can count on one hand the times I’ve been up in the middle of the night for more than an hour. For my wife, however, she has enough trouble sleeping when things are perfect (complete with eye mask and ear plugs in a great bed), so jet lag is never going to have a real cure for her.
Try different things and analyze what you can really live with. Some people have no problem forgoing alcohol for three or four days before and during, while others see that as a big waste of free drinks on good airlines en route. Some methods advise you on what to eat for days, when some people can’t eat those specific foods ever. Try them all, see what works, then keep doing more of that.
But these No Jet Lag pills are $11 at Amazon for a pack of 32, so they’re certainly worth a shot.