The symptoms of jet lag can be irksome – headaches, lethargy, insomnia and irritability…. not the ideal beginning to your holiday! But fear not – follow these handy tips and you’ll be full of beans and ready to go right from the start…
Preparation is key
Adjust your bedtime slightly each day in the week running up to your trip. Generally, go to bed slightly later if you’re heading west, and slightly earlier if you’re going east. This is especially wise if you’re travelling with young children – try to adjust their schedules too before you leave otherwise you risk being awoken much earlier than you’d hoped the day after arrival…
If you’ve skipped the preparation stage, here’s what you can do whilst on the plane
If you’re flying during the daytime, try to stay awake on the plane and use the time to relax with a movie or catch up on some work.
If you’re flying overnight and want to sleep on the plane, business class is clearly the best choice due to the nicer meals, flatter reclines and wider seats.
If business class is not an option, the best place to sit to catch some zzzzzs is next to the window, rather than the aisle. Here you’re less likely to be disturbed if your neighbour gets up, and you can also rest a pillow against the window for extra padding.
It’s better to sit nearer the front of the plane, as the back can be bumpier which is not ideal if you’re a light sleeper. Again, it’s worth avoiding sitting near the galley kitchen or toilets, as you’re more likely to be disrupted.
If you’re one of those people who can never sleep on the plane, just try and have a rest instead. Take the pressure off yourself to sleep, and focus on resting, and who knows, you may even drift off by accident.
Eat well on the day of the flight – plenty of fruit and vegetables will give you a slow release of energy, and you’ll feel much better upon arrival. Take your own healthy snacks on board, such as oat cakes, fresh fruit and nuts. Judge when best to eat meals based on your destination’s local time.
Having a glass of wine or beer on the plane to may make it easier to actually fall asleep – but it is likely to leave you feeling groggier when you wake up, adding to the feeling of jet lag. At altitude, alcohol is more potent and dehydrating than on land, so it really is best avoided. The air on the plane is very dry, and being dehydrated can have similar symptoms to jet lag, so make sure you drink plenty of water both on the plane and for the next day or two after landing.
Avoid caffeine if you’re planning to sleep – as it stays in the system for several hours. If you absolutely must have a coffee to survive the airport – just have a small one. Another tip is to take ear plugs, an eye mask, toothbrush and comfy tracksuit bottoms or pyjamas (change into these on the plane if you don’t want to walk through the airport looking like a scruff bag!) to emulate a normal bedtime routine and get you in the mood for sleeping.
Try a meditation app or CD – even if you’re a skeptic, give it a try and I bet you won’t hear the end of the recording because you’ll be asleep, or at the very least, deeply relaxed.
Make sure you disable any pre-set alarms on your phone or tablet… you don’t want to be woken up at 3am because your device hasn’t automatically updated to your new time zone!
The sun is your friend – if you arrive in the daytime try to expose your body to sunlight to help adjust your body clock. Avoid ‘blue light’ (i.e. iPad & phone screens) if it’s supposed to be bedtime. Try not to think about what time it is back home or calculate how many hours you’ve been awake, this will not make you feel better! Have a positive mindset and bear in mind most people can function as normal after a night of disrupted sleep.
Stay up till a reasonable bedtime – if you arrived at 5pm and feel like crashing right there and then, don’t! Go for a walk, have a decent meal and try to stay up a few hours more, until what you feel is an acceptable bedtime.
If you arrived in the middle of the day, try to keep moderately active and do some activities that involve walking (don’t push yourself too hard), outdoors if possible. This will help promote a good night’s sleep later that evening, and endorphins from exercise are a great way to fight tiredness!
Have you experienced jet lag? Do you have any top tips you think we’ve missed? Let us know in the comments below.