Minimize Jet Lag: Tips and Tricks
Today’s modern jets have you landing before you depart. Your mind may find this confusing, but your body is in an even worse state! Lunch is happening in the middle of the night, and it’s dark when your body wants to be awake. Flying too fast over too many time zones will seriously disrupt your body clock, but there are some things you can do to reduce the impact.
There seems to be no getting used to long-haul flights; researchers report that flight crews who regularly cross multiple time zones still suffer the effects of jet lag, including poor and interrupted sleep, mood changes, irritability, stomach problems, and decreased brainpower. So there is probably no cure, but read on for some tips on minimizing the effect of jet lag on you.
Fly North-South rather than East-West
Flying five hours north of Perth, Australia, will get you to Singapore in the same time zone. Flying five hours east of Perth will get you to Sydney only three hours after you leave. That first flight won’t give you jet lag; the second one may.
Take a Stop Over or Two
It used to be that traveling from Europe to Australia took three months on a sailing boat; fast liners speeded that up to six weeks. The first direct commercial flight from Sydney to London was Qantas’s first Kangaroo Route service. In 1947 that first Qantas “direct” flight departed Sydney and flew to Darwin, Singapore (overnight), Calcutta, Karachi, Cairo (overnight), and Tripoli, before arriving in London after some fifty-five hours in the air and over ninety-three hours in total.
It’s a fairly safe bet that those first twenty-nine passengers and eleven crew didn’t have to deal with jet lag! These days Qantas departs Sydney at 3:30pm in the afternoon and arrives before 6am the next day London time: a total of nearly twenty-four hours later with only a little over one hour on the ground at the single stop in Singapore. Of course, you probably won’t want as many stops as that original Qantas route, but if you break that long trip at least once, if not twice for a couple of nights each time, you will greatly reduce the effect of jet lag on you.
East to West is best. The direction matters too.
Crossing less than three time zones shouldn’t affect most people too badly. However, research suggests that travel direction also matters, with flights to the east bringing more jet lag than flights to the west. So maybe break up your eastward leg with a stop-over to lessen the impact.
Jet Lag tips: Inflight
Some jet lag is just exhaustion, if you are flying twenty-four hours, you need to sleep, and some people can’t sleep sitting up-right or on a plane. Unfortunately, most of us can’t afford the new business class or first class where full beds are now an option. So instead, try to sleep any way you can. Being tired when you get on board can help. Sleeping pills work for some people. A moderate amount of alcohol will help others to sleep.
You will find that on long-haul flights, the food service is timed to the destination time zone. Therefore, overeating is not a good idea but eating something when meals are offered is probably a good idea.
Jet Lag tips: On arrival
Give your body every opportunity to understand what time of the day it is. If you arrive early morning, try to spend a lot of the day outside so that the brain can re-adjust to the sun shining, or at least daylight! A flight that arrives late at night is probably best as you can fairly quickly head to bed. If you have a daytime arrival, try to stay awake until at least 7 or 8pm – it will make it easier for your body to adapt to the local time zone.
Finally, don’t get too stressed out about keeping your normal hours. For example, if you are wide awake at 5am, a time you don’t normally experience: get out of bed, take a walk, see the sunrise over a new city!