International travel over several time zones often results in heavy fatigue and jet lag. The effects of sleep loss, dehydration and a very strange effect on your body clock can wreak havoc when trying to get back into a rhythm in your travel destination.
You may feel that this is out of your control, however there are ways to try and minimise this disruption when travelling on a long-haul flight.
Here are our tips on how to beat jet-lag:
- Be selective when booking your flight – try to avoid arriving early in the morning and late at night. Trying to get through a full day can be impossible without falling into a deep sleep after a long journey, thus disrupting your sleep pattern further. The same goes for arriving late at night – you could be wide-awake twiddling your thumbs until 5am. You might also want to consider when booking your flight which seat you will be in. SeatGuru allows you book ahead and avoid seats near toilets and at the back of a plane, which are bumpier.
- Before you fly get a good night's sleep. Minimising jet lag starts before you board the plane. Take your time packing your hand luggage and make sure you have all the comforts and necessities required for your journey eg eye-mask and ear-plugs, ‘Hydralyte’ pills for hydration, a change of comfortable clothing, socks and lightweight slippers for going to the bathroom.
- Change the time on your watch/phone to the destination time before take-off to try and adjust to your new time zone as quickly as possible.
- Stay hydrated. Avoid alcohol, coffee and caffeinated soft drinks. Jet lag is partly a result of dehydration. To combat this, drink water early and often – drink at least one to two litres before take-off. Stop to stock up on water before you board and carry an empty water bottle in your hand luggage in case your water is confiscated at security. Once you are in the departure gate you can fill up your bottle from the fountain.
- Food selection. Different types of food can either help you stay awake or help you to relax/sleep. Order the healthiest food option to keep you awake – foods high in protein, such as meat, eggs, fish and beans. To promote sleepiness, eat foods with a high G.I., such as white rice, pasta, bread, potatoes and carrots. Taking your own healthy snacks is also a good idea to help you get through the journey. Trail mix (dried fruit and nuts) is a practical option.
- Light – the body clock modulator. Our ‘circadian rhythms’ are linked to the solar day, which means our internal clock can be easily influenced by the timings of daylight. Exposure to light makes our body feel it is daytime, and avoidance of light, night-time. LED glasses such as Re-Timer can be worn in flight to help manage sleep rhythms, tricking the body into thinking it is daylight when needed the most. The same goes for evenings – wear normal sunglasses in the evenings or blue-light blockers. As you would at home, try to minimise exposure to bright screens for at least an hour before bed. You can continue to watch your in-flight movie when you’ve had some rest.
- Wind down before bedtime. As you would at home, change into comfortable clothes for the evening, and ladies may want to remove their make-up. Apply moisturiser to your skin to help with the dry cabin air.
- Try to sleep during night time in your departure city. Recline your seat, keep your head stable with the headrest, use an eye mask and ear plugs if required, and ask flight attendants not to disturb you.
- Melatonin is a hormone that tells your brain when it’s time to wind down and go to sleep. Taking a small amount 30 minutes before you want to go to sleep, can really help your body clock.
- Try deep breathing exercises. Air travel is associated with a drop in blood oxygen levels due to low cabin pressure. Try deep breathing exercises to help with this, as well as keeping you in a more relaxed frame of mind.
- Exercise. Stretching regularly when seated and moving around whenever possible will keep your blood circulation moving and helps you to stay more comfortable. Take a walk if you can every hour when awake. A decent workout when you arrive will help get the metabolism back to normal assisting in your daily routine.
- When you arrive stay on your new schedule. Commit fully to your new time zone and try to get into a routine whereby you sleep after dark and stay awake during daylight hours. Rehydrate and eat healthily. Take a cold shower to re-energise you in the daytime, and a warm shower in the evening to relax you.