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4 ways to make jet lag work for you

(MoneyWatch) COMMENTARY I live outside Philadelphia, in the Eastern time zone. I spent a big chunk of the last week in California -- three hours behind. Since I was traveling with my baby -- who normally wakes up around 6 a.m. -- she woke up that first night in the Pacific time zone around 3 a.m., ready to go. Time changes wreak havoc on the body and one's schedule, and adjusting to the new time zone is usually no fun.

That said, it's also inevitable if you travel much. So here are four ways to make the most of strange sleep patterns:

1. Try using your mornings. If you live on the East Coast and fly to California, you'll pop up that first morning around 5:30 or 6 a.m. (if not earlier). Try using this non-groggy morning time to get a work-out in if you're in a hotel with a 24-hour fitness center, or do some strategic career thinking. You may like it so much you'll make a habit of it back home!

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2. Be the life of the party. Conversely, if you're traveling in a direction that has you wired later than you'd normally be up, schedule some evening networking events you'd normally snooze through. There aren't many opportunities, after college, to close a bar down. Use this time to get to know your colleagues and clients a little better.

3. Get up and read. I tend to pop awake at 2 or 3 a.m. the first night in Europe. Trying to fall back asleep is often frustrating. But even if you're traveling with family members who do better with time changes, you can read in the bathroom (or get some work done; I once wrote a column while up at 3 a.m. in Switzerland).

4. Enjoy a nap. Mid-afternoon is often the worst time to be anywhere with crowds, and if you're in a warm climate, the heat can be unbearable. So use any sudden sleepiness as an excuse to sneak back to the hotel, set an alarm for 90 minutes later, and recharge.

What do you do when you're awake at strange times?

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