Polyphasic Sleep for Jetlag

This is a modification on something similar I did when my daughter was born: Trying to catch up on sleep as a new parent. After having great success with that experiment, I tried the same schedule to recover lost sleep due to jet lag (also with great success).

Most recommendations for recovering from Jet-lag involve avoiding sleep at your destination and trying to stay awake as long as possible (until night time). Usually taking a nap is a bad idea because of the tendency to oversleep. What I am recommending is highly regimented naps in both frequency and duration.

The Plan

  1. Follow traditional best practices for avoiding Jet Lag.
  2. 20 minute naps every 4 hours: As soon as you land go on a dynamic “everyman” sleep schedule (20 minute nap every 4 hours) until night time and then either
    1. Sleep as long as you can (if you can); or
    2. if you cannot sleep, take another 20 minute nap and try sleeping again in another 4 hours.
  3. Repeat on the second day: When you wake up, record the time and plan on another 20 minute nap in 4 hours (and continue the cycle).
  4. Stop the nap schedule once you feel you are onto the local rhythm, but I recommend to stick with it for at least 2 days (or more if you enjoy it!).
  5. Start on the plane: If you are on a really long flight with multiple connections, you can try starting your nap schedule early by napping at airports during connections or on the plane before you land.

Very important: You are not trying to reduce sleep. You are trying to catch up on missed sleep (and future sleep you are about to miss). So don’t purposely stay up all night — if it’s night time and you can get an entire night’s sleep in, then do so. But if it’s day time then be strict with your nap schedule.

Tips

  • Take wind down time into account. It usually takes me 15-20 minutes to fall asleep, so I usually schedule my nap 15 minutes earlier and set my alarm for 35 minutes.
  • It is ok if you don’t actually sleep. Lying in a comfy spot with your eyes closed for 20 minutes will refresh you enough to help push you through another 4 hours of awake.
  • Plan your day around your sleep schedule to make sure you can get your naps in
  • Carry ear plugs and a night mask (and an inflatable pillow?) to maximize your “anywhere / anytime” nap opportunities.
  • Use the website JetLagRooster.com to prep your sleep schedule even before you leave and get tips on how to adapt once you land (note: They do not have naps built into their schedule)