Act Like a Local After You Land

“What I try to do is eat and sleep like a local,” Dr. Hamer said, who flies frequently to Asia, Africa, Europe and South America on overnight flights. “I try to set my sleep schedule to the local time zone as quickly as possible. On the first day I take a short nap, but try to stay awake as much as possible during daytime hours. I also try to eat the same time of day as locals. Your body may say you are not hungry, but it’s important to try.”

Dr. Hamer elaborated, “And force yourself to get some exercise the first few days in the new location. It helps with falling asleep and general well being.”

Consider Sleep Aids Carefully

“The jury is out,” Dr. Hamer said, on using medication on long flights to induce deep sleep for extended periods of time is wise. “I don’t do it for a couple of reasons.” Some sleep aids, he explained, may compound the symptoms of jet lag, like fatigue, nausea, headaches and poor concentration.

Being knocked out for long periods may also mean less mobility, which makes deep vein thrombosis a greater risk, and if there are unexpected disruptions or emergencies on the flight, travelers won’t be fully alert to react appropriately.

Even with products like melatonin, a natural, over-the-counter supplement that is not regulated in the United States, “there are safety and quality control issues. Part of the challenge is optimal dosing and timing have not been determined,” Dr. Hamer said, noting that in some countries, melatonin is by prescription only. He recommends that if melatonin is your sleep aid of choice, start at a low dose of .5 milligrams at bedtime, but no more than 5 milligrams per night, and to use it only for the first few days of your trip.

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