Jet lag. It’s that feeling you get after a long-haul flight (of course, booked with us, Cheapflights). After whizzing through time zones, it’s that extreme tiredness, fuzzy-headed feeling, absentmindedness, stomach upset and general disruption and disorientation that eats into your holiday (or zaps your post-holiday glow).
Our bodies are designed to be awake during the day and sleep at night. Flying into the light when your body thinks it’s night and eating airline food when you would usually be asleep disrupts our circadian rhythm. There are 24 time zones in the world and the more you cross during a long-haul flight, the more severe jet lag can be.
Your body doesn’t know if it should be delaying or advancing and this confusion results in days of exhaustion and sub-par performance.
So here are 16 valuable tips (plus a review) on how to manage the dreaded jet lag before, during and after your flight.
‘West is best’ jet-lag experts say. By travelling west you fly into a longer day. You’re extending your day. By flying east, you’re shortening it and losing time. It’s easier to stay up later than get to sleep when your body is not ready to rest.
Choose your flight times carefully
Taking flights during quieter times such as midweek, early morning or late at night (and avoiding school holidays) could help. Depending on the route and class of airline, you’ll have more space to stretch out and more air.
Are you a good sleeper?
Only you will know this. Can you sleep on a plane or do you find it impossible to nod off, distracted by fellow passengers, the in-flight entertainment and the constant drone of an aircraft cabin. It’s the disruption of your natural rhythm that leads to jet lag, so if you are a sleeper taking a night flight when you can maintain your routine, this will help fend off jet lag. If not, fly during the day.
Get as good a seat as you can afford
It’s a no-brainer. Business or first class with lie-flat beds, capsules or pods will afford you a better chance of rest than cramped economy class. Could you upgrade one way? Or perhaps buy a seat with extra legroom in the emergency-exit row or get a bulkhead seat. Beware, airlines usually assign these to families with babies.
Have a stopover
On a long-haul flight, a stopover will be necessary. This is a good chance to stretch your legs, get some rest and acclimatise. Dubai, Bangkok, Kuala Lumpur, Singapore and Hong Kong are usual stopover stages.
Check out our stopover guides to these destinations:Hong Kong Singapore Shanghai
Reset your clocks
A few days before you fly, reschedule your bedtime by an hour or two. Consult the ultimate jet-lag advisor on British Airways‘ website. It was developed with Dr. Chris Idzikowski, a leading sleep expert. By selecting your normal wake-up time, the time at your destination and the time at home, the tool will tell you when to soak up some light and when to draw the blinds.
Drink lots of water before you fly to avoid dehydration. And lay off the alcohol the night before you fly.
Check out the meal options
Choose carbs for a night flight if you’re planning on sleeping, or proteins to keep you awake and alert. Take some nuts, dried fruit and dark chocolate to snack on.
As soon as you step on board set your clock or smart phone to the time zone you’re flying to. There’s an app called Entrain that connects users to lighting schedules, proven to help you adjust to new time zones as quickly as possible. Start thinking as you would if you were already on holiday. It’ll help get you into the local mindset.
Say no to alcohol and ask for water or juice instead. Experts say about a litre (two pints) per hour you spend in the air on top of drinks with meals.
If you’re going to sleep, eyeshades, earplugs, a pillow and warm blanket will all help. Maintain as much of your bedtime routine as you can, even changing your clothes. Tell your seat mate and the cabin crew that you’re going to try to catch 40 winks.
When you land, have a short nap. Try to keep them to half an hour or less so you don’t ruin your nighttime sleep.
Drinking water. Again! Staying hydrated will help with the effects of jet lag. And avoid alcohol.
Refuel sensibly with lean proteins, a little fat and dark green leafy veg.
Try to stay on schedule
If you’ve flown long haul for just a few days stick with your home routines. If you’re on a longer trip, live as the locals do.
Caffeine? Melatonin? Exercise?
A cup of coffee always helps to give a boost of energy! So does exercise, although don’t do it too close to bedtime.
Many travellers swear by Melatonin. It’s a sleep hormone that your body releases in the evening, letting you know that it’s time to rest.
Light therapy to beat jet lag – the Re-Timer
Looking ever so slightly like Google Glass, the Re-Timer is a nifty device, the latest in the battle against jet lag. Re-Timer has 25 years of research behind it, developed by sleep psychologists at Flinders University, Australia.
The glasses, that can be worn over reading glasses, emit a soft green glow. This green light stimulates the part of your brain that’s responsible for regulating your body clock. The UV-free green light source is at the optimal wavelength to re-time your body clock and reduce jet lag. It also works for shift workers and insomniacs and helps with the “January Blues”, AKA Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD).
There’s a quick and easy sleep calculator on the website. Here’s how it works:
- To fall asleep earlier wear Re-Timer for 50 minutes after waking up.
To fall asleep later wear Re-Timer for 50 minutes before bed.
The glasses are lightweight and the benefits will be apparent after just three of four days of use. The battery is rechargeable and there’s a USB cable for charging on the go. They sell for $299 AUD.
Ready to beat the jet lag? It all starts with booking that holiday. And what do you know, you are currently reading this on Cheapflights.com.au. We specialise in helping you find the best travel prices – so you can rest easy on that long-haul flight…