Tips on How to Beat Jet Lag

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We are symphony orchestra musicians by trade, so getting time off for travel is always a challenge. We often have to leave for a trip on a Sunday morning after playing a Saturday night concert, and return from a trip on a Monday night when we have a Tuesday morning rehearsal. As a result, we have developed some “tricks” to avoiding jet lag, so we lose the least amount of time to confused body clocks. 

First, Arrive At the Airport Ready for Death (No, Not Actual Death) 

When we first started traveling we would arrive at the airport bright eyed and bushy tailed and carrying our Smart Waters and our echinacea supplements. Then we would be wide awake on the flight, watch a bunch of cheesy movies and arrive in Rome sleepless, cramped and thoroughly exhausted, which led to a wasted (literally) first day. Now we arrive at the airport as exhausted as possible. We often take the earliest possible flight out of Nashville (think 5 am) and head to Miami, Chicago, or Philadelphia, and take the train into town or rent a car and hit the beach. Flights to Europe from the US always leave in the early evening, so this usually gives us 7 or 8 hours to see the sights, get breakfast and lunch, and walk as much as possible. If you rent a car you can store your bags there; if not, they have bag storage at the train station. We then get back to the airport and have a martini, and by the time we board the flight we are ready to sleep in the sardine can they call a passenger seat. When we arrive in Europe we have a great, full first day. This method has the additional benefit of turning a boring, stressful travel day into a fun, interesting travel (vacation) day.

If we have a flight schedule that doesn’t have a long layover, we do a lot of chores in the morning so that we’re pretty tired by the time we get to the airport. The key is to put yourself on the “new” time schedule *the day before* you experience it. 

Your goal on the flight out should be to sleep as much as possible on the flight, so you arrive well rested. 

Second, On The Flight Back Home, Make Yourself Stay Awake

Flights from Europe to the US usually leave in the morning, and arrive in the evening on the same day in the US. On the flight home, you want to plan to watch movies, read books, do work…whatever it takes to stay awake. If you take a nap make sure it’s no longer than an hour. When you get home, you want to be tired, and ready to go to bed at a normal hour, so you can get up the next morning well rested. 

We often have to go to work in an orchestra rehearsal the morning after we arrive home. In Zeneba’s case, this means sitting under stage lights, playing really difficult music, one foot from the conductor. No one wants to hear “I’m jet lagged from my vacation” as an excuse. 

When you get home, don’t allow yourself to go to sleep much earlier than you normally would, or your natural sleep cycle will wake you up hours before normal, and you’ll be useless at work. 

Lastly, Do Some Advance Preparations to Help Yourself

We do a few things to help ourselves in advance of a trip, so that we don’t have many chores to do when we arrive home. That helps us focus on getting ready for work, instead of breaking our backs doing household chores after a 10-hour flight. Here’s our list:

-Have clean sheets and towels ready. Change them out as soon as you get home
-Have enough clean clothes at home for a few days, so you don’t have to do laundry right away
-Freeze a day or two worth of healthy meals, like soups or veggie chili. Pull those out of the freezer when you get home so you have home-cooked healthy meals you can easily just heat up
-Make sure you have coffee or black tea in the house…you’ll need it in the morning! 
-Make sure there is gas in the car, so you don’t have extra stops on the way to work
-Make sure morning alarms are set
-Don’t worry about unpacking right away when you get home! Give yourself a break. 
-Have a bottle of wine chilled in the fridge. You’ll thank yourself after a long flight! 

We hope these tips help you on your next trip. It’s always our preference to have a day or two off before and after we go on a trip, but given our very busy work schedules, that is very rarely possible. Following these tips has helped us get back into the groove of things as easily as possible.