There’s nothing worse than wasting the first few days of your holiday (or turning up for a business meeting) being completely exhausted from the 24 or so hour flight across the world. Flying business or first class will clearly help if you have a nice flat-bed to sleep on (or even better, one of the Emirates First Class Private Suites – yes please!) but not all of us have that luxury and even if we do, the time difference can still throw your body clock into chaos.
What’s the solution? Nothing is a surefire cure unfortunately but here are a few of my suggestions…
Start syncing to the new time zone before you leave
That might mean staying up a bit later, or getting up a bit earlier but even just adjusting a couple of hours will help a little bit. But make sure you get plenty of sleep – as much rest as possible before the flight.
Plan your arrival time
If you can, plan your departure so that you land by about lunchtime of the arrival country. This will give you a half-day or so to get through before settling in to bed at the same time as the locals.
Sleep on the last leg of your flight
Why? If you plan your arrival as above and land just after the equivalent of a night’s sleep you will arrive somewhat refreshed and awake at the right time of day on your new country’s time zone. By 7pm you’ll probably start feeling exhausted but at least you’ll have started to adjust your body clock.
Sleeping tablets, ear-plugs & eye mask are your friends
Some people don’t like to take (or don’t need to) sleeping tablets. I swear by them because I can’t sleep on a plane without them but… and there’s a big but… make sure you know what you are taking and don’t carry more than you need into the cabin. You don’t want to accidentally take a whole packet in a groggy state when you think you can’t sleep properly. Less is best – the effects can last quite a while. Always check with your doctor or pharmacist prior to using any and if you prefer, there are many herbal versions available that work just as well. Time them for that last leg of your flight, plug up your ears, cover your eyes and you’ll be off to the land of nod in no time. I also like to use an iphone app called ‘Relaxa melodies’ which allows you to choose soothing sounds as well as binaural beats to help you relax into sleep.
Consumption on the flight – Caffeine, alcohol and meals
Avoid caffeine at all costs. Why? There’s nothing like being over-stimulated when you have to sit in a seat for 24 hours plus it dehydrates you and won’t help in adjusting your body clock. And airplane coffee is never nice anyway so why bother?
Alcohol – I think a little bit to help relax you and pass the time is fine but from personal experience you never want to drink too much on a plane. It’s just horrible – take my word.
One of the most interesting parts of the flight is mealtime, mainly as there’s nothing else much going on, so I like to peruse the menu for a bit. Choose meals that are easy to digest and contain as much nutrition as possible. Generally when you land in a foreign country you don’t eat exactly as you do at home so you need to give your body the best start possible. Eat your greens!
When you arrive – gentle exercise
I find that a nice walk around when I’ve arrived helps a lot. Not only are you doing your body good by getting some fresh air and moving those limbs that have been cooped up for a good 24 hours or more, but you also get to explore your new local. So check-in, have a quick freshen up and go for a wander.
In addition to the above there are many wives tales, potions and lotions that claim to cure jetlag (including things like melatonin pills) but time, sleep and good nutrition are all equally good.
Article by Nicola Billens
Nicola Billens is an experienced traveller, having visited all the continents (except Antarctica) over the last 20 years. She’s lived in France, England, Austria and New Zealand and spent many years and many dollars experiencing what this wonderful world has to offer.