Do you travel often and get jet lag sometimes?
Do you sometimes find yourself not being in your own bed?
Are you struggling with falling asleep faster?
I can probably go on with 10 more questions to see whether or not you struggle with jet lag, but I think you’re interested enough. Your reality is harsh when you’re traveling. I just came back from the Freedom Business Awards in Las Vegas, where I went through a 9 hour time difference. Traveling knowing you’re going to receive jet lag is not very nice, however, I try not to think about it too much until jet lag actually hits me (hard).
When you travel West you just stay up later and the jet lag usually sorts itself out. It took me maybe a day or two to get used to the time difference. No jet lag there.
But, this wasn’t my first rodeo and I knew that traveling West was not going to be the problem.
Travelling East is the problem for jet lag.
Currently, I’m in my bed writing this blog post at 03:35 am , so clearly all my biohacking tools didn’t succeed in me biohacking Jet lag. What follows is a step-by-step of what I usually do and where I screwed up, which ended up in me writing this blog post on jet lag. Hopefully, I won’t forget these steps anymore (probably will).
Still, as one cheerful South Park episode once mentioned, we all have a perfect 20/20 hindsight vision. What follows is several tips on how I usually hack Jet lag, it works 99% when I travel West, and unfortunately only 40% when I travel East. It just so happens that right now, as I’m writing this, I’m in the other 60%.
1. Take known sleep supplements to counteract jet lag: Magnesium & Gaba
If you’re in my close group of friends, then you might have heard me mention these two sleep supplements. If you’re having any trouble sleeping (because of things like Jet lag), these will be the two supplements that I recommend.
The story goes quite simple and unexpected on how I discovered them. In the days that I was doing blood analyses every month, I would notice that whenever I had trouble sleeping my Magnesium levels were low. I then started supplementing with pure Magnesium and noticed that my sleeping patterns got healthier, and I also fell asleep faster.
If I had a very stressful day and I couldn’t calm my mind, what usually did the trick (but I used it less often) was GABA. The reason I use GABA less often is because there isn’t much scientific research to be shown for GABA. A doctor will probably tell you it’s a natural hormone in your brain, but that’s usually where the knowledge stops. I once asked my pharmacy to print out what they had on record from their supplier as the description (which in Belgium is required for every drug sold by a pharmacy), the description literally read nothing. Just empty.
Now, the reason I’m not completely freaked out is that if you delve deeper and you use moderate doses you’re not going to fry your brain. I use it for myself to kickstart my sleeping routine into normal again. A situation where I used to use it a lot is exam periods, high-pressure business pitches, or a day before delivering a 3-day conference in front of 155 people.
It’s definitely better than normal sleeping pills, as it’s still natural. And I see it like I see taking a sip of alcohol before going to bed (which also stimulates GABA production btw), it’s best NOT to do it. However, when you’re dealing with high-stress situations on your mind it’s worth the trade-off. Because in the end stress will be a worse enemy than alcohol for a longer and healthier life. Especially, if you’re fighting against Jet lag.
Bonus tip: I also use GABA whenever I’m on a conference as a speaker and I know I’ll have to be at the top of my game and perform on less than 3-4 hours of sleep for several days. It improves my deep sleep according to my sleep tracker.
Disclaimer: I’m not a doctor, so consult with a doctor before taking it. That being said, some doctors are very traditional and if they don’t know the product they just advise not to take it (without even looking at the composition) -> those are the doctors you want to avoid in your biohacking journey. Go to the doctors that have read recent research and not doctors that remember something that they read once in their studies (avoid those), cause medicine is a science and every couple of years someone comes along and rocks the entire boat. Just like the uprise we’re having right now of good fats, vs. carbs. Who knew that you had to look at the toxin compound of foods as well? Apparently, the government and normal doctors didn’t (but that’s for another blog post)…
2. Grounding to counteract Jet lag? -> Yep, it works
Grounding is literally touching the earth with your skin. I first found out about it from Dave Asprey at the Bulletproof diet (www.bulletproofexec.com). I was a bit skeptical about how Dave Asprey described grounding and the bulletproof diet, but if you’re a true biohacker then there is no other way but to try it out before drawing conclusions. So I did, and yes it works, especially for jet lag.
In simple terms what I would do is:
a) either find a patch of soil in a park, a beach next to the sea (not a fake on in a bar), and so on… And do some exercise for 20 minutes on it.
b) Have my grounding bracelet (or mat) that plugs into the socket and takes all the energy out. Because, it’s smaller I usually leave it on overnight. I experimented in the beginning with putting it on my wrist, but that would ruin my sleep during the night, because I tend to move a lot. After a week of trying different limbs I found that putting it on my right foot was the best option.
The idea is to get all of the accumulated energy out into the soil. I’m not very much into hippy stuff, but if it works, it works. And yes, it does work just try it out. Worst case, you would have exercised for 20 minutes on the ground.
The best way I can describe the sleep you have after that is by making you imagine a day where you spend playing sports on the beach with your friends. At the end of the day you come back exhausted and fall into your bed. That sleep that you have, is what you’re getting because you grounded yourself. The only other way to get that sleep I found was to take GABA, whenever you’re short on it. Because GABA doesn’t work that well when you don’t have a shortage of it in your body.
3. Staying up for 24 hours??
So, when I was coming back from the Freedom business awards I tried to stay up for 24 hours to counteract the jet lag. I’ve tried this for half a dozen transcontinental flights now and let me tell you, it’s not going to work. The reason is simple, in order for your body to stay up 24+ hours you need to stay active, if you’re sitting in a chair with nothing to do, except for reading a book, or taxes for your company or writing a blog post. You are not going to be stimulated enough to actually stay awake. Unless, by some miracle you found that one book that will change your life. But, let’s be honest the chances of you getting a book like that every time you fly transcontinental is not that high (unless it’s the Why Not 3 book :D). But, all jokes aside you can’t stimulate your brain for 24 hours, you can stimulate your body for that long by doing active stuff, but you can’t solve a mathematics exercise for 24 hours straight if you’re a normal person just like you and me.
Short conclusion: in theory it works for jet lag, in practice not so much.
So what’s the solution then?
4. Exercise to keep you awake
Well, I kind of mentioned it already. Exercise should tire your body enough and keep it active until you actually have to go to bed. The reason that I’m writing this blog at night (at this point it’s 4:01 am) is because I actually followed this last tip and exercised, but forgot the second part (hey, I’m not perfect and I don’t claim to be. I’m just a guy on the pursuit of the perfect work-life balance). I forgot to keep myself awake until I had to go to bed, I fell asleep around 20 ‘o clock, which meant that I woke up around 1 am and yep you’ve guessed it, it ruined my sleeping rhythm (again).
But tomorrow is another day, which brings me to the next tip;
5. Just use F.lux or Nightshift
I’ve probably mentioned this app in every blog post I’ve written or every YouTube video I’ve released. If you’re reading this at night and you don’t have that app switched on, I can already tell you that you’re not going to fall asleep in the next 2 hours unless you’re seriously tired. But then again, from experimenting on myself I can tell you that your sleep is not going to be as effective as it should be, even though you think you’re sleeping well.
Unless you’re tracking yourself, you don’t know what the best sleep is that you can achieve. I mean imagine you install that app or you discover a certain supplement or you do some cool exercise that stimulates sleep, and then you fall asleep and you have an amazing 99% deep sleep (not that it exists), but just imagine that it happens.
What I’m trying to illustrate with the above story is that if you want to give yourself an ultimate sleeping experience, you owe it to your body to really go and experiment with all of it, instead of thinking that your sleep is good enough already.
When you’re comfortable and you don’t grow, you start going backward. Because your body changes every day, and it grows and evolves and if you don’t keep up, at one point your going to feel it.
Even if, everything is perfect you want to track why it’s perfect, so that if something changes in your environment you’ll be able to reenact what it was that gave you such good sleep.
6. What to do when everything fails and you can’t sleep (because of jet lag)?
First thing is be productive, because if you do something that you’re proud of or something that can’t make you feel bad about staying up, then at least you’re not going to go into a vicious circle and start hating your life (not that you should, I mean it’s just sleep jeez). By having done something productive you tell yourself that no matter what, everything is going to be fine. Now that that stress is out of the way you can continue to the next step, always tire your body out before you tire your brain.
Simple, every day you get a ‘cup’ of willpower (there is a ton of research that proved this concept). Every decision you take makes the cup of willpower smaller if by the end of that day you took a lot of decision your cup is empty and you’re not going to exercise. You’re going to go into bed with your laptop and watch an empty movie or tv-show. You don’t want that to happen, so exercise first and then tire your brain out. If your brain is still running fast, recognize the concept of the cup of willpower and start making decisions that require mental energy (like writing a blog post). If it’s late you’ll have trouble doing stuff you’re not passionate about (like taxes), so try to focus on the stuff that you are passionate about. That way it doesn’t feel like a strain, but believe me that cup will slowly become emptier until you naturally turn off your computer and fall asleep.
So those were my tips on how to deal with Jet lag. They work almost always when traveling West, they work almost half of the time when traveling East. I’ve been using them religiously for a while, however, If you know some other stuff I would love to hear some more in the comments.
As always, I enjoy delving deeper into the health topic. If you’re interested in more information check out my other posts. We divide the blog into Health, wealth and relationships. The idea is to balance them all to achieve a perfect work-life balance, and by doing so achieving ultimate happiness & productivity.
Founder of Why Not 3? Work-Life Balance for Entrepreneurs
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