Jet lag was never something I thought all that much about when traveling. Whenever I’m waiting in line at the airport gate with my passport and boarding pass in hand, jet-lag is probably the furthest thing from my mind. Well that was until a few weeks ago.
My first jet-lag experience…
I’d unfortunately fallen ill on my journey home from Sao Paulo to Melbourne. I was flying Etihad the long way around the planet which meant around 30 hours of travel time. Long periods of time in the air were never an issue for me, though. In fact, I get quietly excited for long haul journeys.
So I had slept for the majority of my overnight flight from Sao Paulo to Abu Dhabi so then when it came time for my second leg, I knew I should try to remain awake as much as possible. But just as we sat ready for take-off I began feeling sick, running back and forth to the bathroom, so much so that a flight attendant noticed. She called a doctor on the ground to give me medication which enabled my stomach to settle a little and then all I wanted to do was sleep to stop the feeling.
Because I slept, I skipped all of my unconscious steps to avoid the jet lag. I never realised I had this routine until I was forced to abandon it.
So, in light of this, I’ve realised I must have always had a pretty killer routine if this is the first time I’ve really experienced jet lag. So here are my tips in hope they will be of some help to kick start your next adventure.
Opt for an overnight flight
One of the main reasons I was strolling the streets of Sao Paulo an hour after a 30 hour in-the-air journey is because we left Melbourne at 10:30pm. I actually worked that day then headed straight for the airport. Exhausting yourself the day you plan to travel is usually a common occurrence anyway if your anything like me and leave packing to the last minute, but having an overnight flights means your body is already auto-tuned to want to sleep. This results in a more rested and complete sleep (especially if your in business/first class). This will create an easier transition upon arrival as you should arrive at your destination around morning/afternoon and it will be easier to reset your body clock.
Hydrate, hydrate, hydrate
Airlines are notorious for providing limited water throughout the flight, so don’t be afraid to ask for more. Take an empty bottle in your carry on and fill it before you board your flight if you can. The pressurised air in an aeroplane cabin carries very low moisture and humidity levels meaning you should be drinking more water up there than you would on land. This does mean you will need to awkwardly ask that guy sitting in the aisle seat to get up a few times throughout the flight, but you’ll arrive at your destination way more energised and refreshed. Worth it.
Get accustom to the time zone you are flying into and take note of the time you arrive.
Gradually shift or relax your sleeping and eating patterns to mirror the subsequent times at your future destination. This is especially important for your travel day. For example; if your flight departs in the morning at home but it’s bed time in London where you are flying to, try and have your body ready for sleep for your flight. Or if it will be late when you arrive at your destination, stay awake as much as possible for the duration of your flight so your tired and ready for bed time when you land. Start to slowly change your routine 4-5 days before flying. The earlier, the better.
Stay awake in your new destination until your usual bed time
So you’ve arrived into Cape Town after a 20-something hour journey and its 3pm and all you want to do is sleep. “Not even sleep”, you tell yourself. “Just a power nap.” But that “power nap” will turn into a 10 hour deep sleep. Push through the tiredness, and not with coffee as that will hinder sleep later. Go walking around the city, get outside and do something active. Stay awake until a normal bed time. This is probably the most obvious and important step, but also one everybody forgets about the second they get to the hotel and need a lay down.
Steer clear of caffeine and alcohol
Not only does coffee or caffeine based drinks make you want to use the toilet more (and if your anywhere but an aisle seat this is not an ideal situation), it will also create an unsettled sleep. Unless your opting to stay awake the whole flight, it would be best to say no to coffee before and during the flight. Even though most people swear by a hard liquor on board to kick start the holiday, alcohol isn’t the best idea. Alcohol makes you more dehydrated and can make you drowsy in an unnatural way.
Wear comfortable warm clothes or take a change of clothes
There’s nothing worse than being uncomfortable when you are already attempting to sleep sitting upright. Aeroplane cabins are always quite cool, so always make sure to wear or bring warm clothes even if its summer off of the plane. I always have a long, thick cardigan packed in my carry-on to either wear or use as a blanket.
Bring toiletries on board
Another step to ensuring your comfortable, moisturiser and lip balm will be needed to make up for the lack of moisture in the air. Face wipes, a toothbrush and toothpaste will help freshen you up before going to sleep too. This step also triggers your brain into your usual before-bed-routine.
Fall asleep naturally
Sleeping pills will make you more disorientated and feeling off when you land. Get to sleep the natural way with herbal teas or tire your eyes with some reading.
*What are your handy jet lag avoiding tip?