Jetlag: the sleep depriving gremlin that will affect most of us at one time or another. We’ve had more than our fair share of this maddening condition whilst travelling. Think: falling asleep in the bathroom at work, doing jigsaw puzzles at 4am and crying in a lift of strangers due to sheer exhaustion. We have, however, managed to curb this the more we’ve travelled over the years.
Below are our top tips for getting a good night’s sleep whilst travelling, whatever the time zone:
Jetlag isn’t something you can tackle just when it hits. In fact, the more you can do in advance of your travels, the better. We find that trying to shift our sleep patterns before we go and making sure we get plenty of sleep a few days prior to travel, can really help moving time zones. Jumping on a plane after a bad night’s sleep and a stressful week at work isn’t going to help your body shift its internal clock. We usually clear our diaries 2-3 days before we fly to ensure our evenings can be spent resting and relaxing. Eat well, sleep well and exercise, and you’ll feel a lot better once you hit time zone chaos.
2) Adjust your clock
A very simple tip: make sure you set your watch to your new time zone as soon as you board the plane. We’ve made the mistake of not doing this a few times in the past and the realisation that it is actually 8 hours later than you were expecting can be very disorientating.
3) Dose up on your melatonin
We both religiously take melatonin tablets when we travel across different time zones. These tablets consist of the hormone melatonin (duh!) that’s naturally released by the body to encourage sleep. Take these tablets 1-2 hours before bedtime to help encourage your body to feel nice and sleepy. These tablets are often used by cabin crew to help fight the intensity of jet lag. As with any medication, read up on any guidelines before taking them.
4) Eat right
Whilst in the air, try to eat according to the time zone you’re flying towards. Eating a chicken curry an hour before you land at 7am is going to confuse your digestive system. Eating according to the time zone of your destination will not only help your body adjust but will also help you avoid a 4am fridge raid.
5) Stay hydrated
As with eating right, make sure you drink appropriately whilst travelling. Keeping hydrated during a flight is key to helping curb jet lag. As with the tip about eating, having 3 large glasses of wine (we know, it can be hard to resist when it’s free) before stepping off a plane isn’t going to do you any favours. We now avoid alcohol completely on a flight, as we’ve found it just makes us feel irritable and anxious once we’re off the plane. Maybe not as fun, but your body will thank you for it later.
6) Avoid sleeping pills
We’ve never tried these before ourselves but have had the horror/amusement of seeing passengers on flights knock themselves out on them. Once, on a return flight from Thailand, we were entertained by a man who had taken so many sleeping tablets, he promptly fell asleep on the back of a cabin crew member whilst he tried to stay awake to use the bathroom. He then fell asleep mid meal, leaving his poor travel companion to clear up the bits of food that slowly fell out of his mouth. Yeck. Arriving in a new time zone after being heavily sedated for 7 hours is only going to confuse your body clock, so try to resist if you can.
7) Get some advice
We’ve found a great page from British Airways that provides some tailored advice on beating jet lag depending on the time zone you’re visiting. This app will give you handy tips on when to seek light and when to avoid light in order to get your disturbed sleep back into a happy rhythm.
8) See the light
Once you’re in a new time zone, make sure you see plenty of sunshine (or failing that, just light). This is particularly important when you wake up in the morning. Dragging yourself out of bed after a bad night’s sleep isn’t easy but we’ve found a morning walk in the sunshine helps our bodies to adjust that little bit quicker.
9) Avoid napping
When fighting jet lag, the urge to just have a mini nap (and subsequently wake up four hours later cold and hungry) can be strong. In fact, napping during jet lag is our biggest vice. It is, however, a very bad idea and will only lengthen the jet lag misery. If you feel the napping urge, stand up and try to seek out some fresh air to perk you up.
10) Can’t beat it? Join it!
Finally, if you’ve tried everything and still can’t fight the jet lag, embrace it! ! For us, jet lag has meant having Abraham Lincoln all to ourselves (except for the local cleaner) at 7am in Washington DC; seeing amazing sunrises in Thailand; and walking the empty streets of Tokyo at 2am. Being awake at strange times of the day can be a great opportunity to see a country!
Featured image credt: Tuppus