Woman in airplane. Sunset over NYC. Pentax 645Z

How to Conquer Jetlag

Jetlag is to me, one of the most painful body states. How do we conquer it, or at least minimize it?


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Woman in airplane. Sunset over NYC. Pentax 645Z

I read a study done by the US military, in which they minimized the effect of jetlag by the basic concept:

Fast (don’t eat anything for 24 hours) before arriving at your destination. Then “break your fast” by eating your meals as you normally do.

For example, I don’t eat breakfast or dinner, so my first meal is around 5-6pm. Therefore, before I fly to a foreign city, I’ll set my device to the local time, then I’ll NOT eat any food until it’s around 5-6pm for the foreign destination time.

The easy recommendation:

Don’t eat anything while on the flight. Refuse the plane food (it usually sucks anyways)!


When you’re on the flight, my tips for distracting yourself to not eat:

  1. The dinner (night before you travel) eat a shitload of food. I stick to a strict ketogenic diet, so I’ll usually eat unlimited pork or beef ribs, fatty lamb, eggs, chicken legs, etc. I’ll eat so much I’m a bit disgusted with myself. This will allow me to NOT be as hungry on the flight.
  2. During the flight, drink tons of water, black or green tea, and black coffee (no sugar or cream). Pee a lot. Get up, and stretch out your back if your flight is long. Take frequent trips to the toilet and use all the amenities (wash your face, brush your teeth, rinse your mouth, put on the free lotion, etc).
  3. Download lots of media on your phone or iPad: Distract yourself with movies, games, books, music, whatever. Get a good pair of ear plugs (I like “Hearos” on Amazon), or use some noise cancelling headphones like the BOSE QC series, or the BEATS X headphones are good (Bluetooth, and also can be used as ear plugs).
  4. When the cabin crew offers you food, just say, “No thank you”.

eric kim color chroma airplane downtown la poles

Now, trust me, it takes some will power to fast on a plane, but this is essential. I’d rather go through 24 hours of (temporary pain), than to suffer for 3 days to a week from jetlag!

Jetlag will make you feel nauseous, weak, anemic, no will power, and no impetus to move or see/explore.

My travel philosophy is this:

I want to maximize my energy when I’m traveling!


Why do we get jet lag?

Woman sleeping in Paris, with butterfly cloth.
Woman sleeping in Paris, with butterfly cloth.

Jet lag happens because our body metabolism and circadian rhythm gets confused. Our wake-sleep cycle is regulated by:

  1. Meal timing: when we eat our meals.
  2. Sunlight: During the day of your target destination, walk around a lot and get lots of sunlight!

I’m sure there’s other stuff, but I’m not sure what they are.


Should you take naps while you’re jet lagged?

Plane by Howard Hughes

I say yes. Fuck it, if you’re super tired and feel like dying because of jet lag, just take a nap, even though it might screw up your sleep cycle.

If you wake up at a strange time (let’s say 3am), use that time to workout, read, write, or do something active. For example when I was first jet lagged flying from California to Saigon, I would go to the park across the hotel, and workout at the park from 3am-4am. Fortunately parks are safe in Vietnam 24 hours a day (unlike America, when parks get scary).


It’s natural

Plane by Howard Hughes

If you’re jet lagged, just accept it. During the day if you want to stay awake, drink lots of black coffee or tea and water.

Don’t get angry at yourself for being jet lagged. Consider how unnatural it is for humans to cross several time zones in just the course of a few hours!


Don’t work on a plane

This spectacular image of the Orion Nebula star-formation region was obtained from multiple exposures using the HAWK-I infrared camera on ESO’s Very Large Telescope in Chile. This is the deepest view ever of this region and reveals more very faint planetary-mass objects than expected.

Other ideas:

Don’t feel like you always gotta be “productive”, especially when you’re on a plane. Use your plane time to do whatever the hell you want.

If you want to work, that’s cool. But if you don’t want to work, that’s totally cool too!

Binge watch your favorite shows, podcasts, games, movies, etc. Or use the time to write and meditate. There’s no inappropriate behavior to kill time on a flight.


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Umbrella and flash in color. Kyoto, 2017
Umbrella and flash in color. Kyoto, 2017

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