How to Minimize Jet Lag on Long International Flights
Jet lag is fatigue caused by traveling across different time zones, and if you’re on a long-haul international flight, this is easy to do.
Depending on your general fitness, age and whether you managed to grab any sleep during the flight will change how hard you’re hit by jetlag. We all know that a rough flight with a lot of turbulence can make it tough, especially if you’re not a great passenger by default.
Your body will take anywhere from a few days to a few weeks to acclimatize to your new time zone. Experts say that it takes one day for every hour of time zone change, so if you’re just 3 hours behind, expect it to take 3 days to get back to normality.
While you can’t avoid jet lag completely, there are some strategies you can employ to help you get over it more quickly.
- Ensure you’ve had enough sleep for the week before you leave. Hitting the airport sleep deprived will compound the effects of jet lag.
- If you’re flying west (back in time), without shortening how much sleep you get in total, try heading to bed later than normal each night leading up to your flight. I.e. if you’re flying from Melbourne, Australia to London – try to get to sleep at 1-2am instead of 10-11pm.
You can also manage yourself during the flight too, to help reduce the impact of jet lag. Here are my hottest tips to help you maintain your better self:
1. Support your neck
A travel pillow that supports your head, will mean the little sleep you can get on the flight, will be as good as can be. There are so many travel pillows to choose from these days, you’ll find one to suit you, though it will depend – based on your sleeping position and space you have on the flight.
2. Don’t go towards the light!
Wearing an eye mask can help keep sunlight and cabin lighting out. If you can stop your retinas from being bombarded, it’s far more likely you’ll sleep in these awkward surroundings.
3. Block out the noise
Airplanes are actually very noisy, and you don’t notice at first. If it’s not the engines, it’s also the fact you’re surrounded by hundred(s) of other passengers, talking, or watching movies. Using earplugs, or wearing noise-canceling headphones will help reduce the ambient noise.
4. Get in the sleep zone
Try to sleep as if it’s the bed-time of your destination (use your smartphone to work out what time it is!)
5. Don’t get stiff and sore
Whenever possible, go for a walk around the cabin, or do gentle exercise in your seat. This will prevent your joints from aching, so later into the flight, when you are tired, you’re less likely to wake from the aches and pains of being locked in a seat.
6. Dress for comfort
Even though you love that new dress or shorts, don’t be afraid to wear your tracksuit. Loose, comfortable clothing will pay dividends!
7. Over-indulgence == no sleep
Eat small meals more frequently. Lighter foods like fruit and vegetables are your best friend here because they break down more easily and shouldn’t cause you to bloat.
8. Drink plenty of water
Not only will it give you something to do (when you aren’t trying to sleep!), if it causes you to go to the toilet every couple of hours, that’ll tick the box on moving around the cabin too. Just don’t overdo it. Try for 1 glass per hour, or one bottle every 3-4 hours.
9. No alcohol or caffeine
Alcohol is known to dehydrate your body, and caffeine is commonly known to keep you wired. Avoid the temptation, and ask for water instead!
If you can manage all of the above, then you’re on your way to a better start to your holiday, or new home.
Just remember that different bodily processes adjust to the new time zone at different speeds, adding to the bodies confusion. It will genuinely take a few days, to a few weeks, to acclimatize to your new time zone – so plan accordingly.