We are creatures of habit. We are used to sleeping at certain times and eating at other times. When we change time zones, our bodies resist our “normal” routines. In order to successfully overcome jetlag, we must consciously resist our body’s regular schedule.
It is important to start thinking in the new time zone prior to take off. Sometimes, I even start my re-programming a few days before leaving by going to bed earlier and earlier (or later and later depending on which way I’m traveling) prior to the date of travel. Since often I have huge amounts of items to complete before leaving, I have been known to pull an all night-er before the day of travel. My goal is to be completely exhausted before boarding the plane. I wear loose fitting clothes, eat a nice meal before leaving, drink loads of water and I set all watches to the new time zone. The important thing is to start thinking in the new time zone even before arriving to it. While I’m waiting to get on the plane, I take an Advil PM (or Melatonin or Ambien) and I request a window seat knowing in advance that I’m planning to sleep the entire trip. Once I board, I put on my noise cancelation headphones, and tell the stewardess that I will not be eating any meals (they are tasteless anyway and full of fattening pasta and bread). I put my carry on bag under my feet to use as a foot rest which keeps my feet elevated. By now, I am completely exhausted and ready to sleep.
When I land, the most important thing is not to give in to the desire to sleep. I use caffeine to assist with this as well as exercise and other outdoor activities. Another important item is to continue to drink liquids as flying completely dehydrates the body.
The first day in the new time zone is always the challenge. I suggest doing something fun. Explore a place you’ve never been to before. And try to go to bed as late as possible without taking a nap (this is very important!). Before going to sleep at night, take two Advil PM’s to ensure you sleep well and through the night.
Without taking these steps, it used to take me 5 to 7 days to adjust to a new time zone. I remember once while touring Norway, I never even switched time zones as it just felt like my body refused to co-operate. Ultimately, it’s a decision that you make. If you decide you want to adjust quickly, you will. On this last trip to Asia, I landed and immediately had rehearsals, Masterclasses and concerts. I HAD to adjust. And guess what…. I did!