There are a million jet lag stories on the internet, so let’s get this out of the way: Jet lag isn't something you can avoid. There’s no straight-up “cure” -- anyone who says otherwise is selling something, probably compression socks or a book on intermittent fasting. This is not me being a bummer, this is just the science. Take it up with the World Health Organization. Most of the jet lag "biohacks" floating around out there on the internet are mitigating at best and bogus at worst. All that said, there are certain measures you can take to help ensure your recovery process is at least no rougher than it has to be.
First things first -- what is jet lag?
If we’re gonna break down why certain hacks are better or worse than others, then we have to understand a few of jet lag’s underlying principles. Jet lag occurs when you fly across multiple time zones (you won’t notice it much if you’re crossing just one or two) and fuck up your body’s internal clock by forcing it into a new circadian rhythm -- your natural sleep/wake cycle -- faster than it’s naturally able to adjust to. When you crossed the Atlantic Ocean the old-fashioned way -- vomiting off the side of a steamship for two weeks -- your body would adjust to the new position to the sun as you went. But then humans invented commercial air travel, and with it a relatively harmless but nevertheless irritating medical condition. Symptoms mostly involve being fatigued, both physically and mentally, though you might also experience some nausea or indigestion, or find yourself pooping weird for a few days.
How long does jet lag last?
Because circadian rhythms -- your natural sleep/wake cycle -- are light-sensitive, westward travel is easier on the body than eastward travel -- the former lengthens your day, and thus your exposure to daylight. The latter collapses it. Generally, you’ll recover from jet lag on the order of about a 1:1 ratio of days spent adjusting per time zones crossed, at least if you’re flying westward. Flying east, each time zone crossed might set you back closer to a day and a half.
How can I avoid jet lag?
You can arrange your entire travel plans, destination included, around getting on one of those fancy new flights that lasts almost a full day, which will indeed allow you to skip over the whole jet lag process. There’s been some promising experimental stuff in the way of cures over the years, but nothing that’s really practical or scalable. Viagra helped mitigate the effects of jet lag in hamsters, but it would only work for eastbound flights and there haven’t been any actual human trials (though we'd quite like some more of those). Researchers at Stanford noted the potential of flashing strobe lights into your eyes while you sleep the night before your flight, but c’mon.
The only actual solution to jet lag is to just wait for it to resolve on its own, which it always will. But if you’re taking an especially short trip, or frequently fly long distances for work, you want to be sure you’re not making your sleep-hangover any worse. So, because the internet is a cesspool of questionable health and wellness advice, we will be dissecting the best-known existing tips and (loosely) ranking them from “this is not a bad idea” to “don’t try this, it’s garbage.”