I happen to be one of those woeful unfortunates who can’t sleep on planes. While I love my sleep, it is only available to me at regular 8-hour intervals during the 24-hour day. This need for regular sleep cycles, and my aversion to the drone of airplane engines and uncomfortable seats, make cross-longitudinal flights a prolonged exercise in misery rather than an exciting adventure. So how do I get enough sleep to make travel fun?
Fall Back or Spring Forward
The solution to jet lag is to adjust your circadian rhythm gradually rather than suddenly. Allow one day for each hour that you’ll gain or lose.
Traveling east is more disruptive to sleep cycles than traveling west, because the human body’s circadian rhythm adjusts more easily to longer days than shorter ones. Fortunately, the more difficult eastbound adjustments allow you to maintain daytime working hours before departure. If westbound adjustments interfere with your daytime obligations, try shifting halfway before travel and halfway after.
For eastbound travel, get up one hour earlier each day, and retire one hour earlier each night. For westbound travel, stay up one hour later each night and get up one hour later each morning. If you’ll be crossing more than twelve time zones, adjust in the opposite direction. Manipulate lighting to reflect your sleep/wake cycles and take meals and aerobic exercise at your normal intervals from the time you awake.
On the day of travel, set your watch to the time at your destination. As much as possible, maintain intervals for meals, light exposure, and sleep according to your watch. Even if you don’t actually sleep en route, you’ll feel synchronized with the time at your destination and will acclimate much more quickly!