Overcoming jet lag

Hey everyone, I’ve got a bucket-list cycling trip to Italy this June. I’m currently well into my training plan having added all my MTB races, gran-fondo’s, and my Italy trip which I included as a “stage race” in the Plan Builder. What an awesome way to minimize guess work and time planning my training…and keeping me focused on doing the training, well done!
My question relates to jet lag and the best way to quickly adjust to ride at my best. I think we’ve done a good job of scheduling our time to allow for adjustment but your thoughts are appreciated. We arrive on a Tuesday afternoon and I’m hopeful we can get our bike fits completed (we are renting Pinarello’s for our stay) and do a tempo ride to stretch our legs that evening. We will then spend 3 days in Peschiera del Garda with all terrain available (flat, rolling, mountain), and relatively low elevations to begin our trip. The 4th day we will transfer to Bormio, high in the Alps. Day 5 will be an easy acclimation ride. Day 6 we will ride the Stelvio, our main prize for the trip and my summer ‘A’ race. Followed by days on the Gavia, Mortirolo, and a couple other mountain “stages”. I’m not worried about the added challenge of elevation as I live and ride in the Colorado mountains.
Does this schedule help or hurt our ability to overcome jet lag?
Are there dietary changes we can make to help?
What else helps us to quickly adjust our circadian rhythms?
If it matters, I’ll be 50 when we go, 5’4", 142lbs, 200ish FTP (and rising).
I’ll send a post card, thank you!

The best thing Ive found is to exercise once your settled in and unpacked etc. And set yourself up into the timezone, dont have a sleep until its sleep time there. Eat healthy. On the plane hydrate. When your flying because of the dry air pumped into the cabin you dehydrate. Dont drink alcohol. that will dehydrate you faster. if you can stay away from in flight food or choose the vegetarian option. In flight food is laced with sodium (salt) which bloats and dehydrates you. If you have good, compression socks, and yes there is a difference, then use them inflight, good socks will help with blood flow.

Most importantly enjoy your time away and the riding.

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Here is what I have done with reasonable success on my trips to Europe, leaving from the Eastern time zone:

  • 3 or 4 days before I leave I start to take 3mg. of melatonin an hour before bed, I continue this for 3 or 4 days after I arrive.
  • 3 or 4 days before I leave I start to go to bed a little earlier each night and get up a little earlier each morning. Well, this is the plan anyway, going to bed a little earlier doesn’t seem to happen but I make it a point not to go to bed any later than normal.
  • once I get on the plane I set my watch to Europe time, and I act according to that time. So, if my flight leaves at 8 pm in Toronto, that means it is 1 or 2 am in Europe so I try to sleep as soon as I get on the plane - no food as that means you are eating in the middle of the night.
  • when I arrive I try to get a bit of exercise, so your tempo ride is a good idea. I resist having an afternoon sleep, at most I might take a 15 minute nap.

Have a great trip!

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After years of business travel for me the key is go to sleep at bed time wherever you are.
I usually find I’m wiped out by not sleeping on the plane so going to sleep after 20-36 hours isn’t a problem.
I’ve snoozed but found the excitement of being somewhere new (well when not travelling for work) keeps you going for a few hours.
I also avoid naps during the day when trying to adjust but after a big ride maybe more difficult to avoid and may well be needed.

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This probably won’t be a popular take, but get a Rx for Ambien. After years of suffering from jet lag on international travel, I finally started using it about 10 years ago.

I usually only take 1/2 a pill and only if I wake up after going to sleep.

Makes a huge difference. Allows me to get more sleep at night and I still wake up fresh, not groggy.

For your trip, I’d consider taking a 1/2 pill once the plane takes off…it will let you get to sleep at a time you aren’t used to and then arrive better prepared to take on the day once you land.

Some people have weird reactions to Ambien, so definitely try it at home first and only 1/2 a pill.

I call it my Vitamin A regimen. :stuck_out_tongue_winking_eye:

I’ve pretty much tried everything over the Atlantic as well as Asia. So - ditto to those who suggest getting into the arrival time zone as soon as possible. This usually means having dinner before the flight, going into snooze mode as soon as the aircraft takes off (eye mask, ear plugs). Doesn’t matter if you don’t really sleep, just zone out. No alcohol, no coffee, no food on the flight - except maybe breakfast an hour before landing. Water (bring a bottle) as much as you want plus some. On arrival, stay into local time. On business trips i won’t sleep until the evening, on vacation a mid-afternoon nap (less than an hour) is ok. Exercising early every morning does wonders. Don’t worry if you wake up in the middle of the night, stay in bed, relax, don’t get up.

Eat a huge breakfast, light lunch, and lighter dinner.

haha, weird reactions is a bit of an understatement. Probably wouldn’t be a bad idea to have someone with you the first few times you do it if that’s an option. From personal experience I would have been wandering the streets buck ass naked if my gf hadn’t been around to keep me from leaving the house, which apparently I kept trying to do (I have no memory of any of it). I know people who have woken up in the morning with their fridge full of groceries who thought they had been in bed all night and similar stories.


I’ve traveled a lot internationally over the past 10 years and echo a lot of what has been written. Here is what has worked best for me:

  1. Go into the travel well rested. If you are already tired out before leaving it will make things a lot worse. If you are caught up on sleep, then your body will be able to handle the lack of sleep during travel better.

  2. Agree with hydration on the flight. If travelling business class, I will eat food on plane. In coach, it’s a toss up but usually bring something along in case. I avoid alcohol on the flight.

  3. I bring an eye mask, foam ear plugs and noise cancelling headphones on the flight. This combo shuts out the world and I usually can get some sleep. Every little bit helps. The eye mask and foam ear plugs can also help in the hotel while away. I’ve been in way too many hotels with noisy HVACS.

  4. I always try and pick up some some big bottles of water for the hotel room. Hydration definitely helps whenever travelling…

  5. Melatonin. For Europe, I will stay up during the day and then try to get to sleep at night. A small amount (0.5 - 1.0mg) of Melatonin can be helpful to get you asleep. If you wake up in middle of night, then you can take another small amount.

  6. Headspace. If my mind is racing, Headspace does a great job get me settled down. I usually don’t need it when I’m already tired, but its a great app to have on hand.

Good luck!

Excellent point. And for gawd’s sake, don’t start checking e-mails, etc. At most, read something (actual print, not on a screen) w/ low light.

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I have done many many trips like this (business and vacation) but recently did a cycling Italy coast to coast trip - amazing!
When I travel for vacation, I’ll have a few drinks on the plane (I’m going on vacation!) and sleep if I feel like it. The key is to stay awake when you are at your destination until it is sleep time. Normally it’s no problem because there is always lots to do when you first arrive and everything is exciting. Definitely don’t nap, stay awake and keep busy.

Don’t worry about eating anything special - it’s vacation!

I will take melatonin if I’m wide awake around sleep time. Label dose 1hr before I want to go to bed. If I forget, I’ll take it when brushing my teeth. It helps get you get to sleep quicker but won’t necessarily keep you asleep. As long as you don’t stress, it will be fine

Go with the flow. It’s a vacation not an A race. Stressing over the details will cause more problems than having a relaxed attitude.

If it was an A race you would want to arrive in plenty of time to adjust. Everything will be fine. No need to experiment with ambien etc for this in my opinion

Excellent point.

I know a lot of people are saying “don’t nap”, but as long as it is a short power-nap (less than 30 min and absolutely no longer than an hour) it can be the key go to managing the first couple of days.

If a short nap makes the difference between being able to get to 10:00 or later vs. cratering at 7:00, do it.

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