After a few years of not leaving these fine United States, this month I flew around the world and back twice, due to poor planning on my part and unmovable family obligations. (You can’t just reschedule your cousin’s wedding, it turns out.) Having zoomed across 12 time zones four separate times, I can now confirm: the best way to get over jet lag is to get home, drop off your bags, stretch your legs, and suffer some sort of national trauma as soon as possible.
After nearly a day of confinement in compressed seat rows and stale cabin air, I returned to my apartment the morning of Election Day, voted, ate a good breakfast, went to work, watched the first, hopeful chunk of the election results at the office, watched the bleak chunk at home with my roommates, and staved off fatigue with feelings of crushing despair. During the crucial phase when I would’ve ordinarily been sleepy—wracked by the sensation of having stayed up all night, and then some—I instead got to commiserate with millions of people who were sad to see a dried-out pustule become leader of the free world. Then I woke up the next day on an effectively normal New York City sleep schedule and didn’t look back.
Electing Donald Trump after returning from a faraway time zone is an elegant lifehack, but tough to execute on a regular basis. (Like the leap year, you won’t get another taste until 2020.) With that in mind, I recommend the following:
Sleep during the normal sleep hours, and when you are not sleeping, stay on your feet, if at all possible. Do not go horizontal for the sake of comfort. Do not rationalize, telling yourself that you’re just going to stretch out on the couch while responding to some emails or watching some television, because within seconds your leaden eyelids will slide all the way down your face. The day I returned from my second, non-Trump trip, I took a long noontime walk in the park, taking advantage of an atypically sunny November Sunday—seeking out sunlight during the early phases of the day, and avoiding it in the late phases, helps reset your internal clock. Then I went around my neighborhood to knock out some errands, and stuck to activities that made it physically and logistically harder to succumb to sleep. Moderate caffeine use during the most trying hours will help, too.
You can also make wiser decisions while traveling. Stay consistently hydrated to avoid the crankiness and mind-body fatigue of dehydration, even if this means buying a (post-security check) water bottle to bring on the plane and supplement the air hostess’s miserly half-pours into your tiny plastic cup. For years my strategy during long plane travel has been to avoid all food, largely because the airplane fare, when bad (it is always bad), makes me feel a little more ill in an already queasily lit, fart-suffused, cramped-up environment. But recently I came across evidence to suggest that fasting during travel and breaking fast when at local breakfast hour may help you adjust to the new timetable. To my mind, a well-adjusted work-week is worth being hungry for a little while: That pallid, re-heated slab of meat probably isn’t worth it, anyway. You can get by with the little sachet of peanuts and an in-flight movie binge.
Since I’m hoping to never again test out my most effective jet lag curative, I welcome any of your other suggestions in the comments.