How to Cure Jet Lag

Friends, I did it.

I found the cure for jet lag.

In the past, I would fly from the East Coast to Europe, or from the West Coast to Australia, and resign myself to feeling exhausted the next day. I would force myself to stay awake and walk, walk, walk outside in the sunshine until I basically collapsed into bed, usually around 6pm local time. Then I would sleep for at least 12 hours, and wake up still feeling tired.

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One of the sights on my post-nap stroll.

I was an exhausted, useless mess for a solid 24 hours, if not more.

On my last trip, I did a little research about sleep. I learned that we need to sleep in 90 minute increments in order to get the full cycle of sleep. If you sleep less than 90 minutes, you wake up too soon, groggy, cranky, and no better than had you never slept at all. If you just sleep until your body is ready to wake up, the result is nearly as bad.

My most recent trip involved traveling from the mid-Atlantic region to Italy. That involved an overnight flight of about 8 hours. Which means that after the in-flight meal service after you take off, plus breakfast about an hour before you land, you really only have about 6 hours to try to sleep, if you’re lucky.

I was flying in economy, which usually isn’t the worst thing on overnight flights, but this time I was on Alitalia and I swear they must have done research on how to design an airplane seat that is the least likely shape possible to support the human body in any sort of recline. They even had non-removable headrests that forced your head into an unnatural position if you were of average height. Or, of any height, quite possibly.

As an added bonus, there always seemed to be a bright light hitting my face no matter which I way I shifted.

In short, this was the least comfortable overnight flight I have experienced yet. I got the least amount sleep I have ever gotten on a plane, despite my noise cancelling headphones, melatonin, blanket, and pillow.

But, while the overnight portion of the trip was a frustrating, sleepless mess, I tried a few

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The sunshine was a great help.

new things upon landing that made all the difference in helping me conquer jet lag.

This is my new overnight routine to beat jet lag:

  • Wear noise-cancelling headphones. Mine are Bose over-the-ear wireless headphones. They are comfortable and the sound quality is great. They weren’t cheap but were worth every penny.
  • Wear compression socks. I don’t know how I ever traveled before compression socks. They feel like normal socks while you wear them, except your feet don’t swell up like balloons by the time you get to where you’re going.
  • Drink water. Buy a metal water bottle (less likely to break than plastic, plus, you know, the environment) and a metal carabiner. Fill that bad boy up at a water fountain in the airport before you board. Hang it to the magazine pocket on the seat back in front of you the minute you sit down. Drink from it liberally. Make it your goal to drink every drop of water in that bottle before you step off the plane. Do this for every leg of your flight. Don’t worry if you have to pee. Dehydration is worse than needing to go to the bathroom. Just drink the water. Plus, getting up to go to the bathroom frequently is good for your circulation.
  • Check with your doctor first, but if you can, take some melatonin before you try to sleep. It’s a natural supplement that will help trigger that sleepy feeling you need to fall asleep. It’s not a sleeping pill, though, so you won’t wake up groggy. But again, I’m not a medical doctor and I have no idea if melatonin can interact with medications, so do your research before you put anything in your mouth.
  • Set your watch to the local time of your destination the minute you board the plane. Don’t do the mental math of what time is it really, just accept that you are on the time of your destination already and that’s it.

    When you get to where you’re going, do the following. These steps are really key:

    • Fill your water bottle with fresh water and drop in an airborne tablet. You can get the cheaper generic kind at CVS or Costco (and probably lots of other places), if you like. Let it fizz, and drink it down. All of it. You’ll get the full benefits of hydration plus electrolytes.
    • Take a nap. That’s right. Do it. Sleep right in the middle of the day. But, and this is the key, only nap for an amount of time divided by 90 minutes. I set my alarm for exactly 90 minutes, but you could also do 180 minutes or 270 minutes. You get the picture. When your alarm goes off after that period of time, get up.
    • Go outside. If you flew overnight, it should still be daylight when you wake up from your nap. Walk around. Drink more water. Keep walking. Walk walk walk. Drink drink drink. (just water – no caffeine or alcohol)
    • Go to dinner at the local dinnertime. You will be tired, but you won’t be the kind of tired where you feel like you were hit by a truck and want to die, face down in your plate.
    • Go to bed at a normal bedtime. You’ll wake up the next morning after sleeping for about 8-10 hours feeling like you can conquer the world. Just like that, jet lag is gone.
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Walking in daylight after my nap + hydration helped me adjust to local time quickly.

While I was tired when my alarm went off at the end of my nap, it wasn’t terrible. I definitely felt energized and ready to go outside. The hydration and the electrolytes made a huge difference. Thanks to the nap, hydration, and electrolytes, I was able to both enjoy a nice dinner in polite company of others the day of arrival AND wake up the next day feeling great – without any trace of jet lag.

**I am not expressly endorsing any of the products to which I have provided links; I am providing links as a courtesy, for informational purposes only. I do not receive payment of any kind should you choose to purchase these items.

The Key to Maintaining A Healthy Weight in Your 40s

I am a reasonably slim, physically fit woman. I have always been active, and enjoy exercise. Yet, despite these truths, I started gradually putting on a little more weight, and a little more, and a little more after that, until one day I was 40 years old and had no idea how I suddenly needed all new pants.

I went hiking last year with a dear friend and after several hours of a fairly grueling ascent, we took a selfie. I hated – and I mean hated – how I looked in that picture. I was embarrassed by that picture. My friend posted that picture to Facebook and I almost asked her to take it down. Then I thought, no. Hiding from this is not the answer. Instead, I need to figure out what I’m going to do about it, because no way am I buying all new pants, again.

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My “Before” picture

How It Happened

In a nutshell: I turned 40. When women get to middle age, our metabolism decreases by about 5% for every ten years past the age of 40.[1]By changing nothing other than simply observing the passage of time, I will continue to gain weight slowly yet steadily. It’s a cruel game, but one that I am determined to win.

What I Did About It

I resolved to make some changes in my life. I started by moving more. I found some buddies at work who also want to move more, and we went for a brisk half hour walk every day at lunchtime. Eventually, I found some coworkers who wanted to hit the gym pretty hard during our lunch breaks, so I joined them. Together, we have been incorporating running and strength training – get this – into my workday. That was a tough change at first. I had to embrace packing (and unpacking) a gym bag each and every day. I needed a second pair of sneakers so I could keep a pair in my bag at all times. I got used to taking a sometimes cold shower on the fly after a workout and going back to my desk just a bit askew. I accepted that any good hair day I had would only last for the morning, because after lunch I would have workout hair.

And you know what? It was worth it.

Within six months I noticed I not only had more energy, but my pants were fitting looser. I was able to lift heavier weights. I started to like what I saw when I looked in the mirror more and more.

Don’t Count Calories

As much as I know that exercise helped not only my waistline but also my psyche, changing my eating habits helped much more. I met with a nutritionist, and that was helpful, mostly because she showed me that as long as I am eating nutritionally dense foods, I can eat much more than I thought I could and stay within a healthy calorie range. But the real key was when I met with my doctor and asked for her recommendation for a healthy weight. She paused for a minute, and then said thoughtfully: “Women in our 40s and 50s just don’t need as many calories.”

It was like a light went off. She’s right. That’s the key. It really is that simple.

I have to work on not eating when I’m not hungry. I don’t need to munch on something every time I sit down with a book. I don’t need to pre-emptively eat now just in case I get hungry later and don’t have easy access to food. I started stashing healthy, protein-heavy snacks in easy to grab places. I have a large tub of unsalted mixed nuts in my desk at work. I bought 100 calorie Kind bars so I can throw one in my bag for when I’m out and about. I made it easy for myself to always have something that tastes good and is nutrient-rich around me at all times, so that I make better choices.

This way, when I do make less than healthy choices, I’m not derailing myself. I still eat ice cream, but I buy mochi, which are individual sized bites of ice cream wrapped in rice dough. They’re delightful and portion controlled. I sometimes eat more fruit snacks than I should but I make sure to buy them in individual sized packages so I don’t snarf an entire bag in one sitting. Sure, buying things that are pre-packaged that way is a bit less economical than portioning them out myself, but not having to buy all new pants – again – is well worth the added bit of expense of these foods. I’m more likely to stick with the healthy snacks when I make it as easy on myself as possible to access them.

Throw Away the Scale

This step is key. I was making myself crazy by stepping on my bathroom scale every day, every day. Then the battery died, and I made a conscious decision not to replace it. I give the side eye to the scale at the gym and keep on walking. I’ll let my doctor weigh me once a year, but other than that, the only number I’ll pay attention to is the one on the smaller size pants that I’m buying.

I also do not count calories, ever. Do I have a better idea of what constitutes 100 calories? Yes. Am I getting more comfortable with just how much food I need at any given meal to be satisfied and healthy? Yes, though that’s still a process. When counting calories, I would try to “win” by eating as few of my allotted calories a day. That was a mistake. I was constantly hungry, and then angry, and then hangry, and then had no energy, and this doesn’t work! Do not do this to yourself! I am now in the habit of knowing that I will be happier if I eat those multi-grain toaster waffles with almond butter in the morning than if I have a doughnut for breakfast. I’m giving up nothing.

What’s Next

I’m going to continue to plan meals, including making extra and freezing them. This way, when I’m hungry and don’t have the time or energy to cook, I simply pull a premade meal out of the freezer, defrost, and enjoy. I’m going to continue to exercise regularly and find new ways to fit exercise into my daily routine, because I enjoy it, not because I feel that I should. I’m going to continue not caring about the number on the scale, because the real point of life is to find the balance between enjoying food without overindulging in food (which really isn’t so enjoyable anyway).

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Me today.

I plan to eat all the things, but to remember that I simply don’t need as many calories, and let that be my guide. So far, it’s working out pretty well.

[1]https://www.webmd.com/diet/features/fighting-40s-flab#1