Everybody’s got a theory on how to avoid jet lag. At my first job as an engineer, I was tasked by our jet-setting CEO with reading dozens and dozens of scientific papers on the topic in search of a device we might be able to allow executives to actually be functional when they step off the plane from California to London. According to those papers, a big part of the problem has to do with resetting your circadian rhythms, the biological clock that tells us when to wake and when to sleep.
Apparently, the most important factor in adjusting that clock is exposure to light. Loads of light. We thought of making some sort of portable lamp that an executive could sit in front of for a while, but as anyone who has ever squinted at the bright sky or even just a bright wall in full daylight knows, the sun is one heck of a bright lamp and the papers agreed, that’s the kind of light we need.
Here’s what I do. I just sleep whenever I can. I sleep on the plane as much as possible (not much) regardless of what direction I am going in. I take catnaps in the airports while waiting to change planes (set an alarm if you have to). I move slowly and quietly and do as little as possible until I finally get to my destination and get ready to sync up. If I arrive at night, I sleep some more, as much as I can, even if it means lying in bed staring at the ceiling, I still pretend to sleep. If I arrive in the day time, I go to bed as soon as I can after the sun sets.
My logic is, getting out in the day light will do the most to get me sync’d up, but getting some shut-eye, even really low quality rest, is the best way not to be so tired later. Trying to get a jump on synchronizing with the local time works about as well as trying to sleep all day after a long night of heavy drinking. You may end up tired and hung over the next day and sleeping feels like it’s the only thing that will help, but unfortunately, by the time the afternoon rolls around, you’re up nursing your headache whether you like it or not.
With that in mind, I’ve got some sleeping to do…about this time tomorrow, I’ll be below the equator and at high altitude. I’ll write more if I find a cheap internet café. Otherwise, I’ll let you know if I tasted any cuy (guinnea pig) when I return.