The Hudin guide to jet lag

plane* not me ever on a plane

As I’m in the middle of one of the more horrid cases of jet lag I’ve had to date, it seems like a fitting time to delve in to the subject again. You see, as I get older, jet lag seems to get worse. This tied in to how painful air travel is now with idiotic, inconsistent security measures, packed cabins, delayed flights (this trip, all four!), and people constantly stepping on my feet, the joy of travel has been eroding for some time.

I don’t really know what happened this time around, but when I went from Barcelona to San Francisco and stayed for a week and a half, I consistently woke up around 6-7 in the morning which was okay as it was the US. The first day I was there it felt like a combination of hangover and food poisoning but this gets in to the guide tip number one: drink coffee. I’m more of a tea drinker, but that hit of caffeine along with a little aspirin does wonders to chase off the pain I get from being inside two pressurized metal cans for half a day (every flight to the US is two connections from Spain.)

I stayed in UTC-8 for about 10 days and then came back to Spain. As was usual, I crashed hard the first night and then worked to stay awake the next day. For some reason though, I have days that are perfectly normal and then others like this morning where I’m wide awake at 4:30 after going to bed at 12. This time is baffling me and I can only guess it has something to do with the trip being so short.

There is no perfect way to deal with jet lag. It sucks and you won’t avoid it no matter what you do. Even if you can sleep on the plane it doesn’t help and the general guess for duration of temporal pain is somewhere around day for each hour when going west to east as I did which means around Monday I should be back to normal…

Otherwise, the fact that I’m dual national and have family on two continents, I’m never going to escape this and generally the following steps work to alleviate the pain which naturally my mom and her friend absolutely didn’t follow when visiting me in Barcelona last year.

  • Once you get to where you’re staying, about 18:00 or so, take a nap for an hour or less. Set an alarm! If you sleep longer than this, you’ll be hosed, but it will give you just enough of a boost to try to stay up until 22:00 or 23:00 and then check out for a long sleep.
  • Don’t sleep past 9:00 on your first morning. It will feel like you’re dragging yourself up from the dead, but you gotten do it so that you get on the new timezone.
  • No naps after the landing day power nap. Take a nap and prepare to be screwed. You can nap again after the first week of being there if you need it.
  • If you start nodding off in the afternoon and feel like a nap would just be super, go for a walk instead.
  • If you wake up early, obviously try to fall back asleep, but if it doesn’t work, just get up, go for a walk, do whatever, but later in the day, no fucking naps.
  • Ignore any “don’t drink alcohol” warnings except on the flight as drinking on airplanes will make you rancid.
  • Get sunlight. Get exercise. Eat well. All the yadda yadda everyone else says.

Of course despite all of this, I’m still having trouble re-adjusting to UTC+1. It’s just part of the overall truth that you simply can’t avoid the crappage of the jet lag although next time I might try Ambien or another sleeping pill upon arrival. I’ve tried them before on flights where they just made me ill, but for sticking you to getting eight hours of sleep on the timezone you want to be in, I could see where there might be merit in that.

Beyond this, best of luck and pleasant travels.