4 ways to take the lag out of jet lag

'Most people have an internal body clock that makes it harder for them to travel east.'

Someday, the transporter technology first seen on Star Trek will be a reality. We will stand in a booth, flash a credit card (or likely a mobile wallet by then), and a beam will disassemble our molecular structure, digitize it, transmit it to a selected location somewhere else on the globe, then re-assemble our molecules -- hopefully without any software or mechanical glitches along the way.

Until that happens, we have 600-mile-per-hour jets. And jet lag.  You know the feeling -- especially if you're traveling eastward. For example, you may board a plane at 6 pm in New York and get to London at about midnight Eastern Time, which is about 5 am GMT, at the bright beginning of the new day. Even if you managed to get an hour of sleep on the plane (which is impossible for me), you go into the next business day running on fumes.

Stephanie Rosenbloom, writing in the New York Times, describes some ways jet lag can be managed. She relied on ongoing research at NASA, an agency with a huge vested interest in avoiding jet lag (and may lead the way with the transporter beam technology, of course):

1. Advance your body clock ahead of your trip: The direction you are traveling makes a difference -- especially if you're going eastward. "Most people (three quarters of us) have an internal body clock that makes it harder for them to travel east....  If you’re traveling east and want to adapt to the new time, you will have to wake up earlier and go to bed earlier than you normally would."

2. Schedule when to expose yourself to light and when to avoid it. To make the adjustment to new time zones, "you must regulate your exposure to light — both natural and artificial — and darkness....  if you are traveling east, you must expose yourself to light early, advancing your body clock so that it will be in sync with the new time zone. Conversely, if traveling west, you should expose yourself to light at dusk and the early part of the evening, delaying your body clock so that it will be in sync with the new time zone."  One way to approach this is to wear sunglasses in the plane, even at night -- and let people think you're some kind of rock star.

A couple of months back, SmartPlanet colleague Charlie Osborne discussed FinAir's pilot program for flights between Europe and China, offering headsets with LED technology. "The $240 earbuds, developed by Finnish company Valkee, have been designed to blast bight light into the photosensitive regions of the brain through the ear canal, in order to ’substitute the mood-elevating effects of the sun’ — improving mood, and hopefully stimulating the brain in order to combat the disorientation of jetlag."

3. Sleep during the flight. An obvious solution, but often easier said than done, especially if you are cramped in a coach-class seat. "Astronauts and mission-control personnel have used eye masks, earplugs and sleep aids like Ambien to help them doze," Rosenbloom says.

4. Survive the first night by eating right and preparing the hotel room for a good night’s sleep. Good advice. Also, if possible, try to arrive a day early at your destination -- especially for eastward fliers. Also, avoid alcohol -- it only may exacerbate jet lag -- and avoid spicy foods.

Of course, upon further reflection, instantaneous transporter technology may not help all that much, since it won't necessarily address extreme time zone differences. Someone at 1 p.m. in New York activating the transporter will find themselves, a moment later, in Tokyo at 2:00 a.m. the next day. So, keep these tips handy.

(Photo: US Navy via Wikimedia Commons.)

This post was originally published on Smartplanet.com