There are countless suggestions on how to minimize jet lag, mostly involving tricking your natural rhythm to adjust based on sleeping pills, changing your sleep schedule in advance, and setting your watch pre-travel to mentally adjust. In my humble opinion, the art of avoiding jet lag can be much simpler. For me it was a cinch to adapt to the 9 hour time difference, and after contemplation, I believe it’s not so much an art as it is being lucky enough to be traveling in the right direction of time based on the culture from which you are leaving and entering. Or perhaps, you could just pretend that it doesn’t exist. Here me out:
I flew from Los Angeles to Belgrade, via Munich. So I went from Pacific Time GMT -8, to GMT +1 (Belgrade, Bratislava, Budapest, Ljubljana, and Prague). I left on a 9pm overnight flight (10 hour flight to Munich), and was able to get some sleep since it was my bodies natural night-time. After changing planes in Munich and flying to Belgrade and finally arriving in my hostel, it was around 10PM local time, or 1PM Pacific. Now here’s where the culture part sets in. 10PM in Belgrade is similar to 6pm in the US. Maybe you’re having dinner and thinking about what to do that night. Perhaps you take a shower, call some friends and get ready to go out. Then an hour or so later you go to your first locale for the evening. So when I arrived fresh and rearing to go, I had several hours of energy to get unpacked and settled in before sleeping till noon. I didn’t force myself to go to bed at a reasonable hour; I used my extra energy to my advantage, which was great since I was so excited about exploring and seeing the city. Sleeping till noon on a weekend is not an abnormal thing in Belgrade since many people have been up late the night before. So as my body naturally adjusted, I was wide awake very late at night just as the Belgraders were and therefore able to keep up with their schedule well. I was sleepy in the mornings just as Belgraders were. When I flew back to CA, I was waking up super early in the morning, say around 5-6AM, (which to me felt like a lazy 3PM), and I thrilled! I didn’t fight it, trying to stay in bed a few more hours, I used this time to get up, jump-start my day, and get going! This early start was compatible with “real” life back in the states. There, people are up before dawn hitting the gym for their morning workout, getting fresh coffee and breakfast, reading news online and responding to emails before starting their daily commute to work. I was naturally part of the rhythm of society both when arriving in Belgrade and arriving back in California. I hardly felt jet lag at all!
I think it would have been much worse say if I had gone from Hawaii: GMT -10 (a late night, lazy morning place), to Switzerland: GMT +1 (a busy morning place).
Another tactic I employed in my quest to deny jet lag, was to imagine that during my flight, I went through a wormhole in time, and when I popped out of the wormhole and into a foreign country, I just went with it, not ever thinking about what time it was back home and constantly comparing and monitoring my energy level. Besides going from the right place to the right place based on societies schedules, I suggest taking the obvious advice of trying not to sleep unless its night time wherever you are. And if you must take a sleep aid, I recommend an all natural one like a simple melatonin, its non addictive, available over the counter, and your body naturally produces it anyway.
Happy Travels! 🙂