- Begin at home and get a good night’s sleep
If you know you’re prone to experiencing jetlag you should first get yourself ready at home before you even get close to an airplane. So the best plan of attack is to adapt your body’s rhythm a few days before departure. When you fly east, try to go to sleep a couple hours earlier than usual. If you’re going west stay awake one or two extra hours. You could also be getting up earlier, or getting up later, respectively.
People often end up having slept for just a few hours before a long flight – whether it’s due to pre-holiday excitement or a deliberate attempt to tire yourself out so that you’ll sleep through the flight. This is a big no-no.
Last minute changes to your routine will only make it harder to adjust to new time zones, and getting a good night’s sleep before your flight will leave you better equipped to cope with jet lag. Try to get as much sleep as you normally would in a 24-hour period. Make up any shortfall with a (short) snooze on the day of arrival if necessary.
- Sleeping pills are not recommended
Relying on sleeping pills for long-haul flights is a bad idea. They’ll do nothing to assist your recovery from jet lag and will just leave you feeling fuzzy when you land. If you’re in need of some shut-eye, the best way is to drink hot water or have some herbal tea instead? This a much better way to recover from jet-lag.
If you have difficulty sleeping on the first two or three nights, it’s would be fine to take a mild sedative if your physician has prescribed one. But wean yourself off the sedative as soon as possible. Otherwise, it could become habit-forming.
- Avoid arriving at night
Arriving in the morning tends to pose large problems with fatigue since the day drags on for a longer period of time. Comparatively, arriving in the afternoon or evening is a much better option since you only have to stay awake for a few hours. While waiting for the clock to hit evening time, you could take the time to go out and explore the city.
- Set your watch to your destination’s time zone
Once you’re on the plane, set your watch to the new destination’s local time and keep yourself awake if it’s still daytime there. Even if it’s light out at your destination, it may be difficult to stop yourself from falling asleep on the plane since the lights are usually dimmed. This can, however, work to your advantage if it’s night-time in your destination, so you can sleep on the plane.
- Don’t fill up on tons of food
If you’re going west, however, you should choose lighter, more protein-rich food to help you stay awake. Meat, fish, or eggs will fill you up but not too much, so your body can use the energy to stay awake.
Carbohydrate-rich food can make you feel very heavy and tired. Rice, potatoes, pasta, as well as burgers during a stopover will increase your need for sleep, and can be really helpful when you’re flying east.
- Do some exercise
Lighter exercises like jogging and yoga are probably better than a full-bore, high-intensity session. Research also suggests that exercise helps with time-change adjustments and may speed up the return to normal circadian rhythms, or the internal body clock.
Do some exercise to boost your endorphins and stretch out the kinks which develop on long-haul flights. These days, almost all airline magazines will have a section dedicated to simple exercises for long haul flights.
Go for a run around the area and get a feel for the lay of the land. Put your legs to good use in a warm-up run and get over jet lag with a pre-marathon jog. Don’t overwork it, of course, you don’t want to injure yourself before race day, but finding a park or lightly jogging a bit of the marathon course before the race day never hurt anyone.
- Adjust yourself to the daily rhythm of your destination
If you’re flying east you’ll want to go to sleep on the plane. If you accidentally don’t get very much sleep the night before departing then this can also help you out since you’ll be more tired and able to easily fall asleep on the plane. When it comes to traveling west, you’ll want to make sure you stay awake. A daytime nap is counterproductive and will only make your jet lag worse.
If you arrive early in the morning and are really tired, then it’s okay to give your body a couple hours of sleep – make sure you get up in the late morning or afternoon again though. The first night is especially crucial. You might wake up a couple times in the middle of the night, or, depending on your body, you might sleep through the night because you’re exhausted. If you find your bed to be a little too tempting and comfy, get up, leave your accommodation, and get a coffee. Just enjoy being where you currently are in the new time zone.