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Jet Lag & the First Day

Anyone who flies through time zones

has to grapple with the biorhythmic confusion known as jet lag. When you switch your wristwatch six to nine hours forward, your body says, "Hey, what's going on?" Body clocks don't reset so easily. All your life you've done things on a 24-hour cycle. Now, after crossing the Atlantic, your body wants to eat when you tell it to sleep and sleep when you tell it to enjoy a museum.

Too many people assume their first day

will be made worthless by jet lag. Don't prematurely condemn yourself to zombiedom. Most people I've traveled with, of all ages, have enjoyed productive — even hyper — first days. You can't avoid jet lag, but with a few tips you can minimize the symptoms.

Leave home well-rested

Flying halfway around the world is stressful. If you leave frazzled after a hectic last night and a wild bon-voyage party, there's a good chance you won't be healthy for the first part of your trip. An early-trip cold used to be a regular part of my vacation until I learned this very important trick: Plan from the start as if you're leaving two days before you really are. Keep that last 48-hour period sacred (apart from your normal work schedule), even if it means being hectic before your false departure date. Then you have two orderly, peaceful days after you've packed so that you are physically ready to fly. Mentally, you'll be comfortable about leaving home and starting this adventure. You'll fly away well-rested and 100 percent capable of enjoying the bombardment of your senses that will follow.

On the flight, drink plenty of liquids, eat lightly, and rest

Long flights are dehydrating. I ask for "two orange juices with no ice" every chance I get. Help yourself to the juice pitchers in the galley area. Eat lightly and have no coffee and only minimal sugar until the flight's almost over. Alcohol will stress your body and aggravate jet lag. The in-flight movies are good for one thing — nap time. With two or three hours' sleep during the transatlantic flight, you will be functional the day you land. But remember to get up, move around, and stretch your legs occasionally to keep your blood circulating.

Reset your mind to local time

When the pilot announces the local European time, reset your mind along with your wristwatch. Don't prolong jet lag by reminding yourself what time it is back home. Be in Europe.

On arrival, stay awake until an early local bedtime

If you doze off at 4 p.m. and wake up at midnight, you've accomplished nothing. Plan a good walk until early evening. Jet lag hates fresh air, daylight, and exercise. Your body may beg for sleep, but stand firm: Refuse. Force your body's transition to the local time. You'll probably awaken very early on your first morning. Trying to sleep later is normally futile. Get out and enjoy a "pinch me, I'm in Europe" walk, as merchants set up in the marketplace and the town slowly comes to life. This will probably be the only sunrise you'll see in Europe.

You'll read about many jet-lag cures. Some travelers rave about melatonin, but I tackle jet lag without drugs. Just leave unfrazzled, minimize jet lag's symptoms, force yourself into European time, and give yourself a chance to enjoy your trip from the moment you step off the plane.

Article written by:  Dianne Tuttle, CTC

Dianne has been in the travel field over 30+ years and owns Academy Cruises & Tours and Academy Travel School

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