Disclaimer: I am not a doctor, consult a doctor if you have any questions
- Before the Trip
People are normally on a 24-hour circadian rhythm. Change this to 48-hours by alternating light-eating and heavy-eating days. Why? a 7-hour shift to a 48-hour cycle is not as bad as for a 24-hour cycle. A Light-eating day may involve a light breakfast, light lunch and either no dinner or just appetizers. A heavy-eating day involves bigger meals, and perhaps snacks between meals. Plan to have the day you step on the plane as your last light-eating day. I normally start this 5 days before the trip.
Adjust your drinking schedule.
- Before noon, drink water and juice only, no caffeine, no alcohol, no shots of tequila as morning mouthwash. My drink of choice in the mornings on airplanes is spicy tomato juice, which some people call "Bloody Mary Mix" without the alcohol.
- Noon to 4pm, drink caffeinated products, like coffee, tea or soft drinks. If you normally don't drink caffeine at all, here's your reason to start. It will "center" your day.
- After 4pm, drink alcohol, like red wine which is good for your for the health of your heart and lungs, but no caffeine, cola-based mixed drinks or late night cappuccinos. If you normally don't drink alcohol, drink water or juice instead.
This revised drinking schedule is good advice year round, wherever you are, but you can start this 5 days before the trip also.
- During the Flight
Immediately upon getting seated, adjust your watch to the destination time. This will help you determine when you should be awake or asleep on the flight. For example, I left 10pm Los Angeles, and arrived 6am into Sydney. I reset my watch to 3pm had my first meal, stayed awake to watch a few movies, slept for 6 hours, and then was awake the last two hours before landing for breakfast.
Sometimes, this time adjustment might mean sleeping through dinner or breakfast served on the plane. Survivalists indicate that people cansurvive on several weeks without food, and most American businessmen carry enough body fat to hibernate through winter, so don't feel bad skipping a meal. Some airlines provide "don't wake me up" stickers you can attach to your seat or shoulder. I also tell the people around me "If I am asleep DON'T wake me up for drinks or meals." Despite this, people will wake you up anyways, and if this happens, be pleasant, indicate again that you are not hungry, and prefer to sleep instead.
The drink schedule applies to the new time zone on the plane. Depending on when you are served, drink water, juice, caffeine, or alcohol, based on the destination time zone.
- Once you arrive
Focus on being awake from 9am to 5pm in the new local time zone. You can then work to adjust your hours from there.
For at least the first three days at your new location, eat high-protein breakfasts and lunches, like eggs and meats, which will keep you more awake. The drinking schedule still applies, so no coffee or tea in the morning, but some during lunch is fine, again to "center" your day. Eat high-carbohydrate dinners, like salads, vegetables and pasta. No caffeine, have alcohol, juice or water instead.
Many say that it is best to be in bright sunlight during the day, and darkness at night, to reset your circadian rhythm. Scientists have suggested your sensor is in the popliteal region (backs of your knees) and is discussed by The Straight Dope. While I have never strapped aflashlight to my legs, I do find wearing shorts or bathing suits and being outdoors during the day, and wearing long pants and being indoors in dark conditions during the night to be helpful. If you take a nap during the day, make sure your drapes are wide open and sleep on your belly, letting the backs of your knees to get plenty of sunlight, to remind your body you are taking a "day-time" nap. If you find yourself awake at night, keep your legs covered under the bed, wear long-legged pajamas or sweat pants, use minimal lighting like a bedside night lamp, to remind your body you are "reverse napping" (being awake for a short time during a sleep period).
Exercise in the morning. I do this in Tucson, so it is routine and habit to continue at the new location. Sometimes just walking around your new surroundings can be enough to help you adjust to the new time zone, and is a good excuse for wearing shorts or your bathing suit.
About 3-5 days before returning, go back to the "Before the Trip" process and start alternating meals again. Follow the process and act as if returning home is a new trip to deal with jet lag in the reverse direction.
Well this is what works for me, I don't take "melatonin" or other drugs that have been found useful for jet lag in hamsters. I welcome comments on what works for you.