Have you noticed that regardless of your destination, when you cross over at least 4-5 timezones, you always seem to wake up at 4am when you’re jet-lagged? Somehow your internal clock doesn’t care that you have slept in a solid number of hours or that you’ve been on a plane for 24 hours. It’s like some sort of internal alarm goes off inside you and at 4am your eyes are wide open. On my last long trip, I only slept on the plane for a couple hours and then managed to stay up the entire day once I reached my destination. So when I went to be around 10.30-11pm, I was sure I would sleep for at least 9-10 hours. But my body had different plans. Exactly at 4am, I opened my eyes wide and was as fresh as if I had slept the entire night. I did manage to fall back asleep about an hour later, but the 4am was still there.
So I decided to do a little research among people who are more frequent travelers than I am. Turns out, everyone gets the same wake up call at 4am. Most of us manage to fall back asleep shortly after this wake up call, but nobody really knows how to completely avoid it. As for me, I found my own little tips to deal with jet lag to the point where it rarely interferes with my trips anymore.
1. Try to get on the new timezone during your flight. If you’re flight gets to your destination in the morning, try to sleep as much as possible. If it gets there in the evening, watch movies, read books, work, do anything that will keep you awake so you can sleep when you get there.
2. Don’t count on sleeping pills. Yes, they may put you out, but if you’re not a regular taker, they also make you groggy and zombie-like. Instead try something more natural like meditation or brainwave music that will soothe your mind and allow you to relax and sleep.
3. No day naps. I found it impossible to nap for 20min during the day if I’m jet-lagged. If I do allow myself to fall asleep at 2pm, I will sleep until 5-6pm and that defeats the entire purpose of taking a nap. On the rare occasions when I did take a 20min power nap, it just made me dizzy and confused, definitely not in the mood to continue my day and be active.
4. Go out in the sun. Best way to reset your internal clock is natural light. Go for a walk, have lunch outside, go to the beach, anything that keeps you out and somewhat active.
5. Work out. Even if you’re tired and all you want to do is veg out on the sofa, order room service, and watch TV. Don’t! That will only put you to sleep in the middle of the day and keep you up all night. Instead, go to the hotel gym for an hour, or even better, go for a hike or a run outside.
I wonder if at some point in the future, when we hopefully invent time traveling and teleportation, we will still deal with this 4am issue. Until then, feel free to use my tips on dealing with the 4am jet-lag challenge.