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Walkabout: Pigs in Flight
How to avoid jetlag -- and avoid bad breath

November 10, 2000
Web posted at 12:40 p.m. Hong Kong time, 11:40 a.m. EDT

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Think of me as your guinea pig. In a not-very-clinical study, I'm going to combine consumption of melatonin and sunshine therapy to see if they reduce the effects of a 12-hour flight from Kuala Lumpur to London next week. My crew of medical advisers -- consisting of the newspaper boy, my mom, and a guy who knows a guy who has used melatonin, which is supposed to help adjust my body's clock to the time zone I'm entering -- have advised me that this is my best course of action. For once I'm going to listen to them, and make a concerted effort to actually do more than I usually do.

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My normal battle plan against jetlag is to drink lots of wine and coffee on the plane, stay awake for the entire flight watching bad movies -- which seem to inevitably star Susan Sarandon or Natalie Portman -- and then ingest more coffee upon arrival to get me through the day. The result of this regime, my better half tells me, is a grouchy guy with bad breath. And I agree. It's not pretty, and it's not the best plan, simply for the reason that it's never worked for me, so that's why I'm open to change.

In the days before the flight, I'm going to be watching what I eat, and what I drink -- although TIME Asia's editorial team is getting together for three days of brainstorming in Kuala Lumpur, so this could be problematic -- and getting plenty of exercise. Before my flight -- a red-eye that leaves KL at 11 p.m. and pulls into Heathrow at 5.55 a.m. -- I'm going to eat a light supper and once on board I'm going to just say "no." No to the onboard food and drink, aside from water and juice. No to the bad movies. I'm then going to relax into my sumptuous, Malaysia Airlines economy class seat, strap on my eye mask and plug in my earplugs, and fall into a deep and rapturous drug-induced sleep.

My only problem is figuring when to take my melatonin. Too soon and I'll fall asleep in the departure lounge and miss out on the World Travel Mart. Too late and I'll sleep through the first day of the World Travel Mart. The advice I've received on when to drug myself is varied. Mom asked if it was fast-acting melatonin or slow release. Given that the packaging was written in traditional Chinese, I don't know. The newspaper boy is advising me to take it around the time I'd go to bed in my new destination. The guy who knows a guy says take two tablets once I board the plane and then another if I wake up.

Then there's the sunshine issue. Where am I going to find sunshine in London in November? Stay tuned for results, and by all means, if you have any advice, feel free to send it to your guinea pig via this website.

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