The next time somebody brings up jet lag, glance briefly at the ceiling, then tell them: "You mean, of course, circadian dischronism." That should shut them up. If you can take care of that, we'll do the rest right here. You shouldn't have to talk, read or worry about jet lag again for months.
If you don't worry about it now, so much the better. You could be one of the lucky people who will never experience the J-thing. However, the most pessimistic study to date, done for a major drug firm, indicates that 94 percent of air travelers experience some or all of the commonly associated symptoms: fatigue, insomnia, disorientation, inability to concentrate, headache, aching joints, diarrhea and/or loss of appetite.
For those who are susceptible, the potential hit from jet lag is serious enough that some companies will not let executives sign binding documents within 24 hours after getting off a flight through several time zones. The worst-case scenario? Fly eastward over six time zones or more; depart at night; drink lots of coffee.
Eastbound travel tends to be somewhat more taxing than westbound for the body's biological clock, that elusive but very real mechanism that organizes physical functions and responses under a schedule as regular as sunrise and sunset. Generally speaking, the farther you fly at jet speeds, the more time needed for your natural cycles to adjust to an unfamiliar daylight envelope.
It would be nice to believe we frequent flyers can condition ourselves to jet lag, but that is unlikely. I can safely say I have never missed a meal or blown an appointment on the other side as a result of the Big L. However, after a 20-hour (net in-air) return to New York from Bangkok with just enough of a layover in Japan for a tall beer and a short earthquake (true), I went down for a full three days--totally useless, babbling on and on about arriving at JFK an hour before I left Tokyo, which was so. On monster flights like this, business travelers from either side of the Pacific seem equally hapless. Some try to roll into a little ball that can sleep in two seats; the rest usually pass out sitting straight up during the third movie, one arm extended into the aisle, fist clenched around three or four miniature liquor bottles with necks protruding between fingers like a set of brass knuckles.
Seasoned travelers in sales and marketing jobs make their own personal adjustments to jet lag. Ed Murphy, an executive who oversees a large organization's prodigious worldwide direct sales of audio/video/entertainment products, makes six or more overseas trips a year, most of them to Europe. "I arrange to arrive at my hotel by about 10 a.m.," says Murphy. "I immediately take a hot shower, draw all the blinds and go to sleep until sometime in the late afternoon."