I love traveling, but here’s the thing: I’m very jet lag prone. Maybe it’s because I’m a bad sleeper on planes, or that I’m a morning person that likes to wake up early. But when we traveled from Europe to the Americas (Canada, US and Costa Rica) I had a hard time adjusting. Just when my husband had set up that idyllic camp fire, I. just. could. not. keep. my. eyes. open. Or I woke up in de middle of the night (LA time) craving for lunch.
This summer, were traveling eastwards. Vietnam is where we’re going and time wise it’s 5 hours later there than it is in our time zone (CET). It is said most people suffer heavier from from jet lag going eastwards than westwards, because of the time loss. OH. HORROR. Fearing jet lag hell and missing out on half my holiday (okay I might be exaggerating here) because of it got me preparing like Armageddon is coming. Here’s how.
There’s an jet lag app for that.
There are quite a few apps that help you prepare for traveling through time zones. I downloaded Timeshifter because it was pretty and free (for the first time, anyway). All the apps are based on the principle to gradually move your body and your daily rhythm towards local time of your destination. So coffee and sunlight during destination day time, and no coffee and low/no screen time during destination night time.
What I like is that Timeshifter asks you about your personal rhythm too – if you’re a morning person or a night owl. Apparently, it matters. It also gave me hope stating that although for most people it’s easier traveling westward, 25% find it easier going eastward! There may be some hope for me yet.
Rise and shine
So 3 days before traveling, I start with rising early. Normally my alarm goes off at 6am, and I snooze until 6.30. So now I get up at 6, make some coffee and enjoy it with some sunshine in my face before hitting the shower and having breakfast with another cup of coffee. On a rainy day, I set our Philips Hue lights over the breakfast bar to a blueish color to wake me up. It’s 11am Hanoi time, the perfect moment for a coffee break!
Over the next days, Timeshifter will have get up even earlier, to move me from having breakfast at coffee break time to getting up at brunch time. Fortunately, as a morning person, getting up at 5am doesn’t fear me.
And up until lunch, Timeshifter will encourage me to go outside and enjoy the sun. A great excuse to do that lunch walk or lunch on the terrace! But without stylish shades, I need to get that sun in my face.
No after dinner coffee
So after lunch, coffee is off limits according to Timeshifter. It’s not that bad as I usually drink tea in the afternoon. It’s 5pm in Hanoi right now and that after dinner coffee that I like is also a no-no. Sucks. But my body needs to get in resting mode and caffeine won’t help.
Filter out blue light
In the afternoon, it’s all about letting your body make melatonin to get sleepy early. That blue light that woke me up earlier is now best avoided. With an office job, that is quite difficult, as the the light from screens (computer, tablets, phones) is blueish white. Planning meetings, or some old school hands writing during the afternoon is a good strategy for this. Or resetting the time you want night shift on your screens (I think there’s an app for that too). Personally, I like my pink sunglasses that filter out the blue light.
Limit screen time
I normally go to bed early, between 10 and 11pm. Translating that from Hanoi time to European time, it means bed time is at 6pm CET. From that time on, it’s best to go easy on your brain and limit screen time (and other ways to limit processing information). So less tv (got blue light too) and rather no reading either.
Light dinner and no late night snacking
Translating Vietnam time to European time, means European breakfast is Vietnamese lunch, lunch is dinner and dinner is midnight snack time. The smart thing preparing your stomach is eating accordingly. It means a warm meal for lunch and a light meal for dinner. AND NO SNACKING AFTER DINNER (pulls hand out of cheetos bag). If you starting like you’re already in Asia, you may limit your midnight munchies for stir fried noodles and chicken when you’re there.
I should be able to tell you soon whether my strategy has played out. How do you cope with jet lag? Do you have some tips for me in-flight -or on arrival?
Xoxo – Irene