Jet Lag Pill in Development and Tips to Avoid Jet Lag

Jet Lag Pill in Development and Tips to Avoid Jet Lag

A jet lag pill is in development by Pfizer, based on new research that has identified an enzyme, casein kinase 1epsilon, that controls part of the circadian rhythm.

As the article (forwarded to me by TravelSort client Chad) notes, in the study, UK researchers deleted a gene in mice that produces the enzyme, and then timed light switches in the mice's cages to simulate a weekend flight from the UK to NYC. Those mice without the gene and hence without the enzyme adapted much more quickly to the “new time” than those that still had the gene and the enzyme.

Since in humans the gene can't be deleted, the pharmaceutical development of a pill is focused on blocking the casein kinase 1epsilon enzyme and similar enzymes that affect circadian rhythm in humans. But don't run to your local drug store just yet–development is expected to take 5-10 years.

In the meantime, what can you do to avoid jet lag? This is what works for me, and would love to also hear readers' tips for avoiding jet lag:

1. Fly First Class or Business Class with a Flat Bed Seat

Getting some quality sleep on a long haul international flight, at least for me, makes a huge difference in avoiding jet lag. Personally, I've never been able to sleep in an angled flat seat, so a true flat bed seat is a must. And since we typically only take one or two major international trips a year, I find it worth earning the miles to fly first class whenever possible, as there's a better chance of sleeping well on a more comfortable and wider bed.

The other aspect I like about flying first class is that you're not quite as close to neighboring passengers, making it a little less likely of getting ill from that passenger you hear sneezing or coughing. Jet lag can do a number on your immune system, and the last thing you need is to get a cold while on your trip.

2. Drink Plenty of Water, No Caffeine, and Minimal Alcohol on the Flight

The air on a plane has a humidity level of only about 10-20%, compared to a more normal humidity level of 50-70%. It's critical to remain hydrated by drinking plenty of water, avoiding caffeine, and minimizing alcohol, since caffeine and alcohol, in addition to being dehydrating, can interfere with sleep.

3. Bring a Comfortable Eye Mask 

Everyone sleeps more soundly in complete darkness, and rather than relying on the airline's supplied eye mask, I recommend bringing your own that fits comfortably and stays put. 

4. Use a Sleep Aid to Get at Least 6-7 Hours of Uninterrupted Sleep on the Flight

Everyone's different, and some have their own homeopathic medicine or meditation that helps them reliably get to sleep, which is great. But even if you need an Ambien or a Valium prescription from your doctor, I personally think it's worth it to ensure an uninterrupted 6-7 hours of sleep. It makes it that much easier to stay up long enough at your destination to get on schedule.

5. At the Destination Get Some Exercise, Preferably Outdoors

Our Circadian rhythms are influenced by daylight, and some exercise outdoors in fresh air can also help with falling asleep more easily that night. I've noticed that when we get the munchkin to a playground or otherwise let him run around after a long international flight, he often as not adjusts quickly to the new time zone–more quickly than we do, in fact. I've heard that children's eyes let in more light than older adults', which may also help explain why it can be harder as you get older to sleep long and soundly at night, and overcome jet lag.

6. Aim to Go to Sleep at a Normal Time at the Destination

As tempting as it may be, try not to turn in for the night mid-afternoon at your destination. I do allow myself a nap, if I'm really tired, but I set my alarm so that it's for no more than 1.5-2 hours, and then stay up until at least 8pm local time.

What are your tips for avoiding jet lag after a long international flight?

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