Half the reason I travel so much in Latin America instead of the rest of the world is that there is no jet lag. Whether you come from California or Maine, you’re never going to be more than a few hours off if you head somewhere between Mexico and Chile.
Going across an ocean can really make you feel sucker-punched though. It’s like your body is in one place but your soul is still slowly making its way across the Earth, trying to catch up.
I read a lot of advice about preventing or curing jet lag and much of it is just plain impractical. It often involves going on some kind of special diet days ahead of time, adjusting sleep patterns before, and avoiding alcohol. Then you’re supposed to take more steps on the move and yes, again avoid having a drink anywhere along the way.
The old “three Scotch on the rocks and zonk out on the plane” cure—or a sleeping pill—is probably not the best either, going to the other extreme. First of all, it’s hard to get a sound sleep in economy class no matter what and you really shouldn’t go totally immobile for six or eight hours in a cramped seat anyway.
I’ve had pretty good luck with taking melatonin, especially for trips to Europe where I’m only off by six or eight hours. You take it when you go to bed each night and pop another one if you wake up in the middle of the night. It’s supposed to reset your sleep cycle to get you in the new groove. Some people start taking it a couple days before flying, but this has never made much sense to me since I want to get the maximum sleep before leaving, so I’ve just started popping them at bedtime at my destination.
This is a hormone though, so it’s not totally benign. It’s essentially manipulating your body clock through hormonal treatment, which can scare some people off. Plus there’s the placebo issue: is it really working, or would I have been fine regardless? I’ve treated it as an insurance policy—better safe than sorry.
This time I tried something different and foisted it on my family as well: a homeopathic, natural product called No Jet Lag. Again, I figured, “What have I got to lose?” and gave it a shot. I was flying to the other side of the world, with a series of three flights and a couple layovers, so it seemed like a good time to put this stuff to the test.
These pills take a bit more effort, but it’s just pop-a-pill effort. They come in foil packets of small chewable tablets that you’re supposed to pop when you take off, when you land, and every two hours in the air—or every four if you’re asleep. With flights from Eastern Time U.S. to Thailand, we churned through a lot of pills. It was less than one commercial package though, with enough left for the way back.
The verdict? Pretty good.
The jet lag totally kicked my daughter in the ass, but it was her first time dealing with the effect and she didn’t sleep as much as she should have on the plane. (Those seat-back entertainment consoles are way too tempting.) She was totally dragging the first day and part of the second.
For my wife and I though, we came out the other end pretty well. Despite entering Bangkok in its full traffic glory at 7 am after flying, we managed to get through the day with just a short late afternoon nap and then slept through until morning that night. We were fine and dandy on Day 2.
I can’t say for sure whether this mix of ingredients was a magic bullet, but I’ll definitely take them again next time. Here’s what’s in the pills: Arnica Montana (Leopard’s Bane), Bellis Perennis (Daisy), Chamomilla (Wild Chamomile), Ipecacuanha (Ipecac), and Lycopodium.
What about you? What has worked when you’ve flown to the other side of the globe?