Before you go:
- Start adjusting to the local time in your destination a few days early by time-shifting your schedule a little (e.g. get up a couple hours early/go to bed a couple hours early etc to get your body-clock closer to the destination time zone.)
- Use Ambien or other prescription sleep meds — but sparingly. Essentially you want to use it to help with the prior point. When you are on the plane, take it at “night” relative to your destination time so you can sleep on the local schedule. When you arrive, take it at night so you can stay asleep when you go to bed.
- Put your watch, iPad, iPhone etc on the destination time as soon as you board the airplane.
On the plane:
- Dress for sleep on long haul flights. Wear super comfy clothes on the plane and bring a change of clothes with you. Layers are essential. I wear sweat pants and a hoody and I bring extra socks. Even better if you can have zippered pockets to put your passport etc in so you don’t have to stress about losing them.
- Wear noise cancelling headphone on the plane. I have a pair of Naztech i9 headphones and some earbud-style Phiaton ones too (no longer available, but Phiaton have new ones that look even better). Both are great and affordable (under $100). I like both of these bc they are wireless, but you can also plug in a cable if the battery gets too low.
- Bring a neck pillow, eye mask and earplugs for the plane.
- Avoid coffee on the plane altogether and drink moderately. If you’ve taken a sleeping pill, you probably won’t need any booze other than a glass of red with your meal or you will be zombified. Coffee and booze don’t do much for your physical well-being at altitude anyway.
- Take your shoes off while you fly.
- Bring your toothbrush and toothpaste on the plane — when you get the “we are landing in 20 minutes” announcement, go brush your teeth, wash your face etc. It just helps (and your travel mates will appreciate it too. Natch.)
When you land/layover:
- If you have a layover, seek out a shower (e.g. the flights to Bangalore from NY stops in Paris or Frankfurt — both airports have lounges with showers). In fact, many airports have a lounge with a shower — they are worth it even if it seems a bit expensive. Having a shower en route sort of resets your clock. You will arrive much less travel-weary. Good to change clothes at this point too if you can.
- When you arrive, get to the gym. Even if you only go on the elliptical or whatever for 20 mins; do it.
- Make yourself get onto the local time immediately. Don’t nap when you arrive. If you absolutely must nap, take no more than a power nap (under an hour…and twenty minutes is best.)
- Sunlight is essential. During waking hours, avoid rooms without windows, open the shades etc. Your body will respond to sun and your circadian rhythms will adapt. Also, you will get a tan. But wear sunblock. (Ok, I’m a dad.)
- Drink espresso! (But just have one or two in the morning and one in the afternoon. No later than 4pm.)
When you come home:
- Don’t kvetch about how tired you are — it will make you more tired. It will also make you tiresome 🙂