Jet-lag: it’s the monster lying in wait at the end of every exotic holiday or far-flung business trip. Flying from one time zone to another wreaks havoc on the circadian rhythms that govern our bodies’ natural habits. And sleep is one of the most important victims. To help you enjoy the benefits of good sleep on your next trip, we’ve pulled together top tips from sleep experts1, travel experts2 and business experts3.
Welcome to the FixMySleep Jet-Lag Buster!
1. Be prepared
Planning ahead can make a world of difference. Shift your bedtime gradually in the days before you leave. If you’re flying east, early is best; if you’re flying west, delay your rest. Online tools like Jet Lag Rooster or BA’s Jet Lag Advisor will recommend a schedule to help you adjust your bedtimes.
2. Get in the groove from the get-gos
If possible, choose a flight that arrives in the evening and go to bed around 10pm local time. If you’re too tired to stay awake until bedtime, take a nap. But keep it short – 20 minutes is ideal and 2 hours is the max – and make sure it’s not too late in the day.
3. Catch some rays
Our biological clock responds strongly to daylight, so time your exposure to sunlight to ease your arrival. Go outside in the late afternoon if you’ve travelled west, and stay inside in the evening if you’ve travelled east.
4. Be smartphone savvy
Two tips in one. First, update your phone alarms so you’re not woken by reminders or alarms from the wrong time zone. Second, turn off your screens at least an hour before you want to sleep (that includes in-flight movies!).
5. Avoid alcohol
The in-flight drinks may be calling your name, but stay away if you want to beat jet-lag. Alcohol can help you to drift off, but it worsens flight-related dehydration and disrupts sleep. If you struggle to sleep on planes, ask your doctor for advice about sleep medication before you leave.
6. Use coffee (wisely)
Enjoy that espresso, but only if you’re planning to stay awake for at least the next seven hours. If you just need to survive a couple of hours until bedtime, steel yourself and stick to water.
7. Shut out the world
Keep earplugs and an eye mask handy to block out the sound of your neighbours chatting, the baby crying in the row behind and the noise of the engines. These two bits of kit are tiny and easy to carry, but they could mean the difference between no-sleep and some-sleep on the plane. You’ll also appreciate them if you need to adjust to new daylight hours at your destination.
Do you have a sympathetic boss or points from a loyalty card? If so, upgrade to business class and enjoy better sleep in a more comfortable seat (or maybe even a bed). If you’re stuck with economy, ask for a seat with extra legroom, by the window, and away from busy areas like the toilets and the galley. A travel pillow and blanket can give your sleep a mini-upgrade too.
9. Be gentle on yourself
If possible, don’t plan any big trips, major sight-seeing or important presentations for the first day or two after your flight. If it can’t be avoided, build some relaxation into your schedule before your leave. One trick is to act as though your flight is leaving 48-hours earlier than it is and get all your last-minute tasks completed in advance. Easier said than done…
10. Change your attitude
Last but not least, be present in the moment! Set your watch to local time as soon as you get on the plane and don’t daydream about life in the ‘other’ time zone, no matter how tired you get at 3pm. And make the most of being out of sync – if you’ve ever wanted to visit an early-morning fish or flower market, now’s your chance!