How to Fight Jet Lag: An Expert Weighs In


Some travelers hesitate to travel long distances, fearing that the jet lag will be intolerable. But avoiding those extended journeys also means missing out on some of the world’s most beautiful destinations.

Aiming to help travelers manage jet lag, ANA launched a new program this year called ANA Travel Wellness. The airline’s Digital Design Lab (a department within the company focused on innovation and the future of travel) partnered with Harvard researchers and NeuroSpace, a company focused on improving people’s quality of sleep, to study the determinants of jet lag.

One of the key goals of the initiative is to help travelers prevent symptoms of jet lag altogether by sharing behavioral tips through a new app that will launch (first in Japan) in 2020. Fliers can follow the app’s recommendations from before the journey all the way through to the time they arrive back at home.

Until then, we tapped NeuroSpace Chief Technology Officer Makito Sato to share a few key strategies to prevent jet lag on a long-distance trip.

Adjust before you jet

“First, it is best to know which direction (east or west) you are going to travel. If you’re traveling westward, this means your internal biological clock needs to be adjusted backward so, in the days before traveling, try making your bedtime a little later.

“It’s also important to understand that adjusting your biological clock takes at least a few days to completely fit the destination’s time zone. Therefore, it’s best to check your itinerary for how long you will be abroad. If your trip is short (three days or less), you may not want to adjust your biological clock.”

Let meals reset your clock

“It’s well known that food intake also affects your biological clock. So, if you want to optimize your clock to the local time of your destination faster, it might be better to begin taking your meals at home closer to the times that you will eat at your destination. I understand, however, that sometimes you don’t feel hungry. In that case, at least eating breakfast the first morning when you arrive will have a significant impact on resetting your clock.

How does this all come to life? Well, for example, assume I am going to travel from Tokyo to California and stay more than 3 days. It is hard to begin to follow the meal times of the destination before the trip, since 9AM in Los Angeles is 1AM in Tokyo.

Therefore, our app suggests that you shift the meals at least a few hours so that you can gradually accommodate to the destination time zone. After arriving at the destination, in order to adjust as soon as possible, you should try to take meals at the same time that you would at home. So, if you usually eat breakfast at 6AM at home, you should take a breakfast at 6AM at your destination’s time as well.”

It’s wise to exercise

“Exercise can also be key to adjusting your jet lag. Even though intense physical exercise right before bed might not be good for falling asleep smoothly, light exercise in the mid-afternoon to early evening stimulates your autonomic nervous system to resist sleepiness caused by jet lag.”

The app does the trick

“Although the above tips are part of the advice we will deliver through the new app, it is also important to stay relaxed during your trip, especially while in flight, to tackle your jet lag. Therefore, we are developing the app so that you’re not stressed thinking about what you need to do to adjust to jet lag. That’s why we are collaborating with ANA: to connect our app and ANA’s ‘real’ services [light settings, foods, comfortable seats] to deliver the best experiences throughout your journey.”

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