Some time ago, I shared my technique for dealing with jet lag between New York and California/Vegas (three hours). This strategy doesn’t work as well for more disparate time zones. The strategy actually changes depending on whether it is a work trip or vacation. Anyway rather than reply in a private email, putting it on the blog.
New York to the West Coast – work trip
I like to fly early in the day where possible so I have more time to enjoy being in the destination city. On a six hour flight, you spend a full day traveling, but can take a nap on the plane. I try to take an hour nap so I can stay up later. I don’t always get the nap in, but I do stay up.
When I arrive, I try to keep busy whether it is walking around or seeing stuff or even working. I make sure to eat extra. I make sure to have a light mean/snack late in the day. Even if my flight arrives late, I eat something when I arrive. I also ensure that I don’t go to sleep before 10pm; ideally closer to 11pm.
Ten pm doesn’t sound late. But your body thinks it is 1am. And has spent the day traveling. (and in my case got up early to get to the plane). The key to forcing the staying up is to “reset” so you wake up at a normal time in the local Pacific time zone. Knowing I’m going to get up at 7 or 8am for work means 10-11pm is a good time to fall asleep. In ensures I won’t be up at 4am! The light snack serves the same purpose. Without it, I wake up in the middle of the night because my stomach thinks “Breakfast!”. I try to tell it to go back to sleep and it keeps telling me “No; Breakfast!”. My eating the snack, my stomach doesn’t wake me up.
Getting up at a good time locally means my body is in sync for meals local time. And that I won’t be tired to go out after work with people.
Flying home to New York – work trip
I’m able to sleep on the plane so I take the red eye home. This also lets me do something in the destination city before flying home. I get 5 hours of sleep on the plane. This is enough so I sleep another 2-3 hours when I get home. If it is a work day, I can still work the afternoon. I don’t feel the same way as if I slept in my bed. But it’s enough for one day. That night, I make sure to go to sleep a little earlier to catch up.
New York to the West Coast – vacation
For vacation, I always fly early in the day and arrive around lunchtime. Same thing; I make sure to either eat a lot (like a buffet) or use the above technique about a snack. Just like work, I make sure not to go to sleep too early. Then the next day, I sleep until 7:30/8:00 am. It’s a little harder when visiting family because someone who lives in California isn’t going to want to be up at 7:30. I make sure to keep my iPad within reach of where I am sleeping so I can always read. (not a book because the light isn’t good enough to read.) This works well.
Flying home to New York – vacation
This is the exact same technique as for work. Red eye plus nap. It’s harder from Vegas because the flight is an hour shorter. Still worked though. And for vacation, I can plan to have the day off. Sometimes I work half a day anyway because i don’t want to use as much vacation though.