Ten Tips to Beat Jet LagDon’t let jet lag lag you down

Max Hepworth-Povey

7 years ago in News

You wake up in the middle of the night in a cold sweat.  Your heart’s pounding.  Your eyes are red and you’re anxious and irritable. The symptoms and puffy face looking back at you in the mirror suggest you’ve been on one hell of a bender.  But no, it’s just jet lag.

To avoid this, if you’ve got a long haul flight in the pipeline, here are a few personal tips on how I manage to beat it.

“My eyes bloodshot but my jet don’t lag” – Jay Z.

1. Get a good night’s sleep before you fly

This may seem simple, but a big night out before a long haul flight isn’t a great idea. Yes, you may be excited or trying to tire yourself out so you sleep on the plane, but get a good night’s sleep instead.  It will leave you better equipped to cope with the lack of sleep coming your way.

2. Set your watch

I always set my watch to my destination’s timezone when I get on the plane.   Then, I try to completely forget the timezone I’m leaving. It’s great because you can go into a haze of film watching where hours fly by like minutes.  Soon, voila, you’re psychologically aligned with where you’re heading.

3. Arrive in daylight

I’ll admit, this is easier said than done when you’ve got schedules and costs to manage.  However, when you arrive in daylight, or better still, the afternoon you’ll be able to stay awake easier.  You should be able to hold out until early evening when it’s socially acceptable to go to bed.  A great flight I genuinely look forward to (honest) is London Heathrow to Sri Lanka, when you leave LHR at 9pm.  On the flight, you can watch a couple of films, try to doze, and land in CMB at 1pm.  Then, by the time you’ve got to the coast, you’ll have an hour for a quick surf, followed by a beer and dinner.  Then, at last, you’re set for bed.

4. Split up the trip

If you’ve got the opportunity to have a stopover, go for it. You’ll get the chance to see a new city (I know Chad loved his 21 hour layover in Ethiopia) and your body will have more time to adapt to a new routine. This also usually makes your flight loads cheaper.

5. Airport Yoga

Yoga as we understand it, the physical movement (asana) was developed by the ancient sages to enable the body to sit around for a long period of time. In other words, to meditate. Try this airport yoga routine when you’ve got time to kill in departures; your mind will be quietened and your body will also be prepared for the journey.

6. No booze

Although I’m fond of the odd shandy, I stay away from alcohol whilst flying. This was possibly induced when, in my early 20’s, a friend and I got excited on the way to Sri Lanka.  To cut a long story short, we completely abused the complimentary in-flight beers, so much so that we were painfully dehydrated when we landed in the 31-degree heat after less than an hour’s sleep and no water and it was easily the worst I have ever felt.

Consider this your warning: the effects of alcohol at altitude will seriously increase tiredness and cause dehydration.  This combination will leave you with no chance of beating jet lag.

7. Drink Water

This one’s simple.  Drink lots of water on the plane to stay hydrated and be sharper when you arrive. Buy a big bottle in departures as the tiny glasses you receive sporadically on the flight will not suffice at altitude, or the constant air conditioning.

8. Sleepy tea

While we’re on the topic of water, you can ask for unlimited, free hot water on any flight.  What I call sleepy teas (camomile etc) really do put you in a sleepy state.  This should guarantee that you get a few hours in on the flight.

9. Get the fried eggs on toast

A protein-rich meal the morning, after you arrive, will give your brain what it needs to produce neurochemicals.  These will increase your alertness throughout the day. Luckily, when you arrive in any Asian country, fried eggs on toast seems to be the only Western breakfast option.

10. Ride it out

Don’t worry about it too much. People have survived wars with barely any sleep. Women spend days in labour. I even partied at a festival for three days straight once, and didn’t feel that bad afterwards. Just embrace the jet lag and float around at your destination like a zombie until it’s a normal time to go to sleep there.

Max’s Top Tip (in no way endorsed by Ticket to Ride)

Get off the plane and go out for beers, maybe even a nightclub until stupid o clock.  Wait until you’ve hit that apparently dangerous 24 hours awake phase.  This way, when you get back to your hotel you will 100% crash out like a baby and get a solid 10 hours in. However, you probably don’t want to do this if you’re coming home and have work the next day.

(Not Max’s) Medical Advice

I read somewhere that taking Melatonin reduces jet lag.  This is because it’s a hormone the body naturally makes that regulates the cycle of sleeping and waking so taking melatonin tablets may help “reset” your sleep and wake cycle. However, the long-term side effects of melatonin have not been well studied so maybe consult a Doctor before putting extra hormones into your body.