Whether it sneaks up on you gradually or hits you straight in the face like a ton of bricks, jet lag is no fun. 6am walks to Starbucks and spontaneous jaunts to the only spot still open at 4am might be fun from a ‘living like a local’ perspective while you’re away, but falling asleep at your desk and crying into another Horlicks come 2am at home certainly is not.
Fortunately, there are ways and means of lessening or even beating jet lag, leaving you to enjoy your holiday from the moment you land and avoiding those around you having to listen to the cliché traveller whinge of ‘oh I’m just SO jet lagged’ once you get home. You can thank us later, after you have woken up from all your amazing sleeps.
Start as you mean to go on
Get a head start on jet lag by adjusting to the time zone of your destination before you’ve even left the house. Adjust your bedtime for a few days before you go, going to bed earlier or later depending on whether the time zone of your destination is ahead or behind that at home.
Adjust your watch
Adjusting your watch a couple of days ahead of departure will help you get accustomed to your destination in advance…albeit minus the sun, sea and sand for a few more days.
Rest before you travel
It’s easy to fall into the trap of pulling an all-nighter before an early morning flight, in the hope that you’ll be too exhausted to keep your eyes open on the plane, thus sleeping the whole way and laughing in the face of jet lag at the other end.
While this is a great idea in theory, if you actually can’t sleep on the plane you will arrive feeling absolutely exhausted and will have thrown your sleep pattern well out of sync in the process.
Decide whether to sleep on the plane based on the time in your destination
If your time on the plane coincides with night time in your destination, sleep away. If not, try and stay awake so that you can slot straight into a routine once you arrive, rather than getting your sleep on the plane and sitting wide awake all night in your hotel.
Get a workout in
If you regularly exercise at home and plan on doing so at your destination, it is important to time your workouts around the time you would hit the gym at home. Working out whenever you have the energy, regardless of the time of day, will disrupt your routine. If you exercise early morning at home, make sure you rise early and battle through the tiredness to do so when away, rather than waiting until later in the day.
Plan and prepare for sleep
Most airlines offer blankets for long-distance flights but it pays to pop your own ‘sleep kit’ in your hand luggage too. Screaming babies, rustling wrappers, chatty neighbours and fluorescent lights can all put paid to the best laid plans to sleep on the plane. Prepare yourself a kit with an eye mask, ear plugs and neck pillow, and you’ll be well equipped to lull your body into the perfect state for sleep.
While we would all love to rock up to the airport looking like an A-lister, it really makes more sense to travel in comfort than in style. While the rich and famous might look fab for the paparazzi, even they change into pyjamas and slather on the moisturiser ready for take-off.
Leave your jeans and tight tops in your case, opting for looser clothing instead. Jumpers will keep you warm when the temperature in the cabin drops (which it inevitably will) and some fleecy socks will keep your feet toasty when the shoes come off.
Avoid alcohol and caffeine
All-inclusive airport lounges and free pinot on the plane make this a great idea in theory but a difficult one in practice. Altitude exaggerates the dehydrating effects of alcohol and caffeine, so if you can refuse the free booze, coffee and cola, you’ll be well on your way to making jet lag take a running jump.
Avoid sleeping tablets and opt for melatonin
While sleeping tablets create unnatural sleeping patterns, taking melatonin encourages your body to adjust to the changes in your surroundings. Taking melatonin is recognised as one of the most effective ways to reduce and even prevent jet lag, and is a trick often employed by cabin crew.
Get straight in the sun
Don’t be tempted to hide away in your hotel room for an hour or two of snoozing once you arrive. Get straight out in the sun instead for an energy boost to keep you going until bedtime. Refresh with plenty of water, put jet lag to the back of your mind and do some gentle exploring. Don’t plan a jam-packed day of sightseeing unless you plan on wearing yourself out entirely on your first day!