Holiday time is precious. When you’re travelling, the last thing you want to do is waste precious hours - or even days - feeling seedy, exhausted and grumpy thanks to jet lag. And coming back home is hard enough without having to stumble back to work in a fog.
While planes have gotten bigger, faster, and fancier, airlines haven’t yet come up with a magic cure for the dreaded jetlag. Luckily, there are many things you can do to prevent it so that you can step off the plane fresh and ready for action.
Here are 13 tried-and-tested tips to help you avoid the dreaded jetlag!
Many people erroneously believe that if they board their flight exhausted, they’ll sleep well during the whole flight and skip jetlag altogether. This. Never. Works.
In reality, the opposite holds true. The last few days before you head off on holiday are often frantic, as you sort last minute travel details, pack, and wrap up jobs at work and home. Try to get organised well ahead of time and spend the last 24-48 hours relaxing, sleeping, and storing energy reserves. This results in a much more enjoyable and relaxing flight and you might just avoid arriving at your destination feeling like you’ve been through a tornado.
2. Drink more water than usual
Planes circulate air from outside; at flying altitudes, the humidity of that air is around 10% - three times drier than the Sahara Desert! On a ten-hour flight, you could lose up to 8% (or 4lt) of water which will leave you headachey, irritable, and super tired.
The trick to avoid horrendous jetlag? Drink at least 250 mls of water for every hour you’re in the air. Start hydrating before you board, and continue once you land.
3. Skip the alcohol
It can be insanely tempting to start your vacation the minute you step on the plane, but avoiding alcohol during the flight is arguably the very best way to avoid jetlag.
Alcohol is dehydrating and can mess up your natural sleep cycles by making you sleepy when you should be wide awake.
4. Ditch the caffeine
Much like alcohol, caffeine can also be dehydrating and tends to mess with your sleeping cycle. Mind you, it’s a great pick me up to have as soon as you land!
5. Set your watch to the new time zone
To help your body get into the new groove quickly, set your watch (or phone) to your destination’s time zone as soon as you board the plane. Once you arrive, forget about what the time is at home and organise activities around the new time immediately, even if you have to fake it ‘til you make it!
6. Head outdoors
Obviously, after your flight lands!
If it’s day time when you arrive, head outside and explore instead of “resting” in the hotel room. The fresh air and exercise will help kickstart your sluggish circulation, digestion and metabolism, and the sunlight will help your body get into its natural rhythms faster.
7. Go west
The impact of jet lag is much more severe if you travel west to east, even if you are flying for the same length of time. That’s because bedtime will come much earlier than you’re used to. It’s difficult to go to sleep when your body still thinks its 4 pm! It’s actually much easier to keep busy and push your body to stay up a little longer - as in east to west travel.
8. Pick your flight time carefully
If you have the option, choose a flight that arrives during the day, so you can push through, hit the streets, and get some sun before hitting the hay, rather than trying to force yourself to sleep when you’re wide awake.
This is especially true if travelling west. Many frequent fliers heading to Europe, for example, will specifically choose an evening flight out of Australia that arrived early in the morning, as this is by far the best way to double the win and avoid jetlag.
9. Avoid a short layover
If you’re contemplating planning a layover to break-up your long-haul flight, make it worth your (jetlag) while. An overnight or even 2-day break is a wonderful way to avoid jetlag at your final destination but remember this only works if the layover is substantial.
A short stay of anything under 24hrs can actually be detrimental, especially if the layover hub is in a totally different time zone to your destination.
10. Speak to your doctor about melatonin
Many frequent travellers swear by melatonin tablets and, when taken correctly, they can certainly help you avoid jetlag. Melatonin is the so-called ‘sleep cycle hormone’ and when taken in certain doses and at specific times, it can help your body adjust to a new time zone relatively quickly. The catch? When taken incorrectly, melatonin can seriously disrupt your natural circadian rhythm so this is not something you ought to be taking without first consulting with your doctor.
11. Don’t make commitments for 2-3 days after arrival
Remove any kind of stress from the first few days of your trip and you’ll ease into your new rhythm much faster. If you’re heading overseas to finalise an important business deal, attend a family wedding or otherwise need to be on top of your game, travel earlier than needed.
Sometimes, the best way to deal with jetlag is to plan for it, so add a few days into your itinerary for getting over the time zone change.
12. Fight the jetlag with all your might, once you arrive
Giving into jetlag at 3pm on arrival day is a sure-fire way to stretch the torture for a whole week.
Avoid the (admittedly irresistible) temptation to go to bed early or sneak in a (6 hour) nana-nap as soon as you arrive. Fight that urge by going outdoors and doing something active and you’ll help your body adjust to the new time zone much faster.
13. Use a nifty jetlag app
There are several apps on the market that can help you on your quest to diminish or even avoid jetlag when flying. They all work on the same model, which dictates when you should sleep, eat, soak up sunshine and exercise, among other genial tips.
Check out the 3 best apps to help you avoid jetlag.
There’s nothing worse than spending the first few days of a trip stumbling around feeling like a zombie. With a bit of careful planning and self-care, you can not only survive your flight comfortably, but start enjoying your travels as soon as you hit the ground. You’ll find it easier to get in sync with your new destination and make the most of every minute.
So, pop a water bottle in your bag, rest up before you go, and have an amazing trip!