Wikipedia says the recovery period for jet lag tends to be one day per time zone crossed. Florida to Japan crosses 14 time zones. That's about right. When I haven't attempted any preventative anti-jet lag solutions, it has taken about two weeks to fully recover.
Wait, Clay, what's jet lag? I remember my first trip to Japan. I had no idea what jet lag was. Of course, I had heard of the term, but didn't know it meant extreme fatigue, difficulty in concentrating, and overall miserableness. Someone asked me if I had jet lag back when I first arrived in Japan in 1998. While wiping my eyes, I said, "Why, no. But I am very sleepy." He laughed and said, "That's jet lag!"
Another thing that happens is even when you sleep you aren't getting quality sleep.
You'll experience weird, vivid, and yet completely believable dreams like me handing my iPhone to my wife to take to another room while hearing her say, "Good news. Godzilla won't attack Tokyo tonight." But when I wake up, the ultra-HD dream which I was so certain reflected reality can't be reality because my iPhone happily charges next to my pillow and, hey, no one would believe Godzilla would attack any place but Tokyo.*
But this time, we (myself, Yumi, and the two kids) had pretty much zero jet lag going and very mild jet lag now we are back. (East to West tends to be worse--I don't know why...)
I've been to Japan and back to Florida eleven times now. Here are a few major tips I implemented hard-core this time that I think made all the difference:
- I slept as much as I could on the plane--over five hours on the big fourteen hour flight!. Even the excited kids slept a few hours.
- The first full day we were there, we did something big all day (we went to Tokyo Disneyland this time).
Yeah, we were a little sleepy, but nothing like real jet lag.
Here are a few more tips:
- Start adjusting your schedule a week before leaving. Go to sleep 30 minutes earlier each night.
- You might want to break up your flight. Last year, we stopped in Los Angelos and stayed overnight in a hotel. It made things a lot easier, but more expensive. This time we went straight to Tokyo, but instead of going on the last four-hour leg of our trip to our final destination, we spent two nights in Tokyo.
- Sleep as much as you can on the plane. I took a friend to visit Japan with me twice. The first time he actually asked me on the plane, "Do you want me to wake you whenever the stewardess comes or just when breakfast is served?" I looked at him as if he had just asked me, "Do you want to die by bayonet or by rifle squad?" "No!" I told him. "If I sleep through landing, don't wake me up even then!"
- Use earplugs (or I just use my unplugged earbuds) and an eye mask.
- Bring a jacket or double your clothing--it is usually much colder on the plane and you want to be comfortable.
- Avoid watching movies in flight. Read a book by the gentle light until you can't keep your eyes open.
- Drink lots of water and avoid caffeine. The cabin is always super dry. You want enough water but not so much as to have to go to the bathroom too often.
- When you are awake, get up and stretch, walk around if you can.
- Melatonin is a natural drug that can help put you to sleep. I used it last year, but not this time. For some reason it can sometimes have the opposite effect on me; I get sleepy, but not tired. Give it a try before the big trip.
- After you land and it it nighttime, take a hot shower to relax before bed.
- As mentioned above, the first full day after you arrive should be filled with activities to keep your mind off of sleep. Disneyland worked like a charm for the kids. Having a friend come over when we got back also helped with the kids not sleeping during the day.
* That's why the 1998 Godzilla movie bombed so badly. The big guy attacked New York.