Ask most travellers and they will tell you that one of the biggest hurdles to overcome is coping with Jet lag on long haul flights. The challenge is to try not disrupt your body too much because it is programmed to naturally sleep, and eat at certain times during a 24 hour period. If your body is thrown out of sync with the change in timezones, it can lead to fatigue, memory and concentration issues, or, feel generally unwell. It’s worse when you move from west to east because the body finds it harder to adapt to a shorter day than a longer one.
Here are my tips on how to deal with jet lag on your next long haul flight.
Think about your flight times
Whenever I am travelling long haul I try my best to book flights so that when I arrive at my destination it is either early in the morning, and I’ve had a good sleep on the flight. If you cannot sleep while flying then time your flight so you arrive in your destination late in the evening, and then you can climb into your hotel bed and sleep. Look at the time difference in the destination before booking your flights.
Before you Fly
Make sure you’re fully rested before you travel. If you’re flying overnight and you can get a bit of sleep on the flight, it will help you to stay up until night time once you arrive at your destination. Try and change your sleep routine a few days before you travel. A good tip is to start getting up and going to bed earlier if you’re travelling east or later if you’re travelling west. During the flight I always eat and sleep according to your destination’s local time.
People with fixed schedules of sleeping suffer the worst. If are more flexible when you sleep, you’ll not be hit as hard with jet lag. One thing I would advise against is to stay up all night before you travel so you’re tired and more likely to sleep, you’ll need your brain in fully working order to cope with the challenges of travel. It is better to be rested before you travel and get a good night’s sleep before you start on your journey.
During your Flight
It’s important to keep hydrated because dehydration can make the effects of jet lag worse, especially after sitting in a dry aeroplane cabin for many hours. Avoid alcoholic and caffeine drinks such as coffee, tea and cola, which can disturb sleep. When you get on the plane, set your watch to the time of your destination to get yourself aligned. Move around regularly and do exercises to keep the blood circulating which will make you feel better. Eat sensibly, and while no diets have been proven effective for preventing jet lag, not eating a high carb or fatty food can be disruptive to sleep.
When you arrive
The NHS mention a sleeping a minimum block of four hours’ sleep during the local night which is known as anchor sleep, it is thought to help you adapt to a new time zone. If possible, make up the total sleep time by taking naps during the day. Personally, unless I am feeling ill, I try and keep awake until it is bedtime in the local timezone. What I also like to do is freshen up on arrival at my hotel, and go straight back outside and expose myself to daylight, take a walk to discover what is nearby, and this usually gives me the energy boast my body needs to keep going until bedtime. All of our bodies are different though, so, do what feels right to you.
Dealing with Long Haul Flights
Long haul flights can be tough on your body so keep hydrated, drink plenty of water, try your best to get a few hours sleep, and regularly walk around the plane. Try exercises in your seat, a good idea is to move your joints and ankles, stretch your arms. When travelling long haul I download relaxing music on to my smart phone or tablet, put in my noise cancelling headphones, close my eyes and relax.