Jet lag happens when your body's clock is out of synch with wherever you may be in the world, often caused by switching timezones. It forces extreme and sporadic bouts of exhaustion and irritability on its victims, and can be a real hindrance, especially if you're on a chaotic work schedule and need to be functioning at the top of your game. If you pursue a career in private aviation, this will be a necessary and recurring evil of the job.
Just to put things into perspective, I’ll explain to you my current state. As I type this post, I’m in the galley of a Global 5000 Jet working an overnight trip, flying a high net worth businessman from New York to Anchorage, Alaska. He’s sleeping in the back of the plane, while we crew are pumping copious amounts of caffeine into our systems to ensure he makes it to his destination safely. We departed at 11:30pm EST, and by the time we land, I will be 9:00am EST and I will have been awake for the last 25 hours straight.
In addition to working such a long day today, my last couple weeks have been a whirlwind. In the past 14 days, I’ve flown from New York, to California, to Texas, to Chicago, back to New York, to Paris, to Bulgaria, to Moscow, back to Paris, to New York again, and now onward to Alaska. It’s been an exciting rush and I’ve seen so many parts of the world I hadn’t experienced yet! However, my body and circadian rhythm have NO IDEA what’s going on. Fortunately, I’ve learned to manipulate my sleep patterns & energy levels to cope with the jet lag. Here are some tips and tricks:
1) My number one tool for keeping a sleep schedule on track is Gummy Melatonin Vitamins. Melatonin is a naturally occurring hormone in the human body that regulates your sleep pattern. You can buy these supplements in most pharmacies and grocery stores that will promote a stronger, deeper sleep. The “gummy” version is essential, because it absorbs faster than pill form, and you can control your intake by biting them into portions (plus they’re tasty :)). For example, If the full dose for 8 hours of sleep is to take two gummies, but I know I only have 6 hours to get as much rest as possible, I’ll take one, and bite off the half of a second to plan for the appropriate amount of time. Heads up though! Don’t abuse them, start small to avoid excess drowsiness, and take only when needed. The more Melatonin you take, the harder it will be for your body to produce its own- which could lead to troubles sleeping normally without it. If supplements aren’t your thing, go ahead and try some chamomile or sleepy time tea! Have some half an hour before you’d like to sleep (add some milk & honey for taste) and you’ll fall into a peaceful, heavy slumber.
2) Plan ahead! If you know you have a trip coming up that’s going to require some obscure locations and hours, do your best to get acclimated prior to it. For example, I knew I had this long, overnight flight coming up for the last few days, so I’ve done my best to ready for it by staying up as late as I could, and sleeping in when possible to prepare my body for the schedule.
3) Eat light. Especially in the morning. You’ll be amazed at how much more energy you have later on by starting your day with a refreshing green smoothie or maybe just a coffee/tea and some simple eggs. The more you eat in the AM, and the more complex the meal that you consume is, the more energy your body spends trying to break it down and digest. That’s energy that you won’t have to perform your job duties on overnights or long trips.
4) Download some Sleep Apps. There are tons of apps out there designed to relax you and help you make the most of your sleep cycle. A few favorites of mine are:
"Calm" for winding down and peaceful meditation
"Alarmy" which is great for people who struggle to wake up. (Any fellow snooze-button lovers out there?) - You can set the alarm to provide you with a wake-up challenge such as shaking the phone a certain amount of times, solving puzzles, walking a certain amount of steps, etc to ensure that your body and mind are awake, sharp, and alert at first ring.
"White Noise Lite" is a personal, portable white noise machine that you can play from your phone wherever you are. Great for tuning out background noise and focusing on sleep.
"Sleep Timer" is an alarm focuses on giving you the ideal amount of sleep based on your rem cycle to maximize energy when you wake up.
5) Keep moving! When I’m working and jet-lagged I find the worst thing I can do for my energy is to sit down- that’s when I crash. So keep your body and mind occupied. Organize the galley drawers, count inventory, go through all the products and make sure nothing is expired, plan for your next trip, etc.. This will not only prevent you from slumping, but will also make the time go faster and keep you on top of things professionally.
6) Try ginseng supplements for recovery! When you globe-trot for a living, the jetlag is inevitable. Ginseng is a natural herb that will instantly help alleviate symptoms like drowsiness, irritability, and inability to concentrate. Think of it as Mother Nature’s little natural pick-me up.
7) Keep your mind & body strong with regular exercise, and nourished with a healthy, well-balanced diet. Incorporate vitamins & supplements into your daily routine that promote focus, positive energy and healthy natural sleep patterns. Things like B-12, BCAAs, 5HTP, Seratonin, & Ginko Biloba have all become a part of my daily ritual, and I feel a massive difference
Here are some of my personal favorite sleep & energy-related products: