Jet Lag – A Traveler’s Tale

"Jet Lag" - Self-potrait - Taipei, Taiwan

“Jet Lag” – Self-potrait – Taipei, Taiwan


Once again having traveled across the Pacific Ocean to Asia, specifically Taiwan, I find myself in the deep hole of jet lag. I was optimistic upon arrival. I caught a 2am flight and arrived at Taoyouan Airport at 6:20am local time. Energy level was good having slept on the plane off and on for most of the 13 hours. I remember being so tired during the flight I couldn’t wait for my dinner tray to be picked up. I layed it on the floor underneath my legs later to be awakened by an attendant crawling underneath me to retrieve it. Then quickly falling asleep again.

A taxi to my room in Taipei, some breakfast, and a hike later in the day and I thought maybe this time I really did beat the jet lag animal. Slow down cowboy. Definitely not on this trip! It’s been three nights in a row of waking up at 2 or 3 in the morning defeated and restless.

It’s a funny thing. You can try all the suggestions out there. But no matter what it seems you are inevitably going to pay the price to be transported to a completely different culture and way of life. At least if it’s a minimum 6 hour time change.

Jet Lag Memmories

I’ve got some interesting memories while I have been in the process of adjusting to a new time zone. Of course they’re mostly middle of the night memories. In Quito, Ecuador I remember waking up at 1:30 in the morning. Unable to get back to sleep I started watching old sixties sitcoms on TV. They were still hilarious and sometimes even funnier dubbed in Spanish. Then there was my visit to Lhasa, Tibet. Restless through the night I got up to look out through my hotel window and saw prayer flags on all of the rooftops lit by the moonlight. So beautiful and lasting.
Note: Lhasa and Quito are high altitude cities. Your body will take even more of a beating adjusting to these environments and the difference in oxygen density in the air.

Personal Suggestions

One thing I will emphasize that will help you maximize your trip. Plan to be tired! Plan your trip around this and the start will be much more pleasant. We have a tendency when we take vacations to want to cram in as much good stuff as possible knowing we will soon be back at our desks counting down the days to the next adventure.

Front end your trip with at least a couple of adjustment days that can be flexible. If you end up having a quick turnaround time on jet lag recovery you can still get some new spontaneous adventures in. If your body needs more time let it recover so you’ll be ready for your planned activities.

Treat your body well! Make sure you eat healthy, drink plenty of fluids, and not too much alcohol for the first couple of days. Everything else will run it’s course and you’ll be ready for the start of an amazing adventure and possibly a life changing event.

Here’s some information and suggestions from The National Sleep Foundation on ways to minimize the effects of jet lag. They say the type of foods you eat have no effect on jet lag. Quite possible but I still believe if you treat your body well recovery time of any kind will be speedier.

Jet Lag and Sleep
Sleep Topics Hot Topics

Whether you’re a “Road Warrior” who has piled up thousands of Frequent Flier Miles, or someone who is planning a vacation to a distant location, you are likely to experience the phenomenon of “jet lag,” which can have a profound effect on your sleep and alertness. Every day, millions of travelers struggle against one of the most common sleep disorders — jet lag. For years, jet lag was considered merely a state of mind. Now, studies have shown that the condition actually results from an imbalance in our body’s natural “biological clock” caused by traveling to different time zones. Basically, our bodies work on a 24-hour cycle called “circadian rhythms.” These rhythms are measured by the distinct rise and fall of body temperature, plasma levels of certain hormones and other biological conditions. All of these are influenced by our exposure to sunlight and help determine when we sleep and when we wake.

When traveling to a new time zone, our circadian rhythms are slow to adjust and remain on their original biological schedule for several days. This results in our bodies telling us it is time to sleep, when it’s actually the middle of the afternoon, or it makes us want to stay awake when it is late at night. This experience is known as jet lag.


Some simple behavioral adjustments before, during and after arrival at your destination can help minimize some of the side effects of jet lag.

Select a flight that allows early evening arrival and stay up until 10 p.m. local time. (If you must sleep during the day, take a short nap in the early afternoon, but no longer than two hours. Set an alarm to be sure not to over sleep.)
Anticipate the time change for trips by getting up and going to bed earlier several days prior to an eastward trip and later for a westward trip.
Upon boarding the plane, change your watch to the destination time zone.
Avoid alcohol or caffeine at least three to four hours before bedtime. Both act as “stimulants” and prevent sleep.
Upon arrival at a destination, avoid heavy meals (a snack—not chocolate—is okay).
Avoid any heavy exercise close to bedtime. (Light exercise earlier in the day is fine.)
Bring earplugs and blindfolds to help dampen noise and block out unwanted light while sleeping.
Try to get outside in the sunlight whenever possible. Daylight is a powerful stimulant for regulating the biological clock. (Staying indoors worsens jet lag.)
Contrary to popular belief, the type of foods we eat have no effect on minimizing jet lag.

Here’s a link to their website:

About the Author John Saboe

I am a broadcaster, photographer, writer and videographer with a passion for travel throughout Asia. I love making connections and engaging with people. I am spiritual and seek adventure wherever I go.

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