Travel Tuesday: How to deal with Jet-lag
We all know the feeling. We’ve just arrived somewhere far away, we should be happy and enjoying that amazing place we’ve just landed at and then we just fall asleep at the oddest of times in strange places (like in front of the TV, on public transport or at Uni). Yes, that is jet-lag. We’ve all had it. Some more and some less.
So let’s talk about tricks to minimize jet-lag and how to deal with it once you have it.
Before the flight:
Find out the time difference to the place you’re going to. If you’re going from West to East, the jet-lag is always going to be a bit worse than the other way around. That is because you are essentially travelling forward in time and have to adjust your inner clock accordingly.
Pack a small bottle of water (to refill on the plane), headphones and, if you’re sensitive to light, an eye mask in your carry on. Keeping hydrated will help you cope with the long flight better and it also helps you deal with jet-lag. Wearing noise-canceling headphones and an eye mask will help you sleep better and thus will help you to keep jet-lag at bay afterwards.
If you don’t like plane food, also pack light snacks like bananas, muesli bars or nuts for the flight. Light snacks are better than large meals because, as you will be sitting for hours on end, they are easier to digest. It might also be hard to sleep while you’re hungry, if you, like me, hardly ever finish you’re “delicious” plane food. Bananas and muesli bars have saved my life more than once on long distance flights.
Depending on the distance you will travel, and on the time you have beforehand, it can also help to shift you’re daily routine towards the destination you are going to travel, too. If, of course, you’re travelling from Europe to Australia or New Zealand, or the other way around, this is hardly possible because it would mean turning your entire day upside down.
During the flight:
This tipp might sound weird at first, but as soon as you board the plane, change your watch to the time of your destination and “live” in the time you’re going to, rather than the time you’re just leaving.
So, for example, if you are leaving Europe in the evening to go to Australia or New Zealand, the people there are just getting up while you would normally go to sleep soon. So what I did on my last flight to New Zealand, was to stay awake for the flight from Hamburg to Dubai (6 hours) and, naturally, for the time I spent in Dubai waiting for my next flight (4 hours + 1 hour delay). I had left Hamburg at 8pm and by the time I left Dubai, it was pretty much the evening in New Zealand. When I left Dubai, I almost fell asleep standing up, which meant that I could sleep well during the long 14 hour stretch of my flight and that I had begun adjusting my body to the time I was going to.
I arrived in Auckland at midday and felt really awake until the evening (thanks also to a very sunny day). I did the same thing for a flight to Chile and, again, it worked great.
While you are on your flight, potentially trying to stay awake for another hour or two, it’s so important that you move around. And don’t just do the foot exercises they show you at the beginning of your flight. Really stand up, walk up and down, do squats in front of the bathrooms, get yourself another drink (i.e. drink as in juice, not drink as in alcohol) from the kitchen-type places, or, like I always end up doing, hold a baby while their mother is in the bathroom.
What also helps the whole moving around exercise, is to actually drink enough. If you drink the 1.5-3 liters you’re supposed to (yes, you do actually have to drink more on a flight than you normally would because the AC is drying you out as you sit there watching the 3rd + movie), then you will be moving around regularly anyway. So two flies with one stone really.
While we are at the topic of hydration, try not to drink coffee if you are actually trying to go to sleep soon. In any case, the coffee probably isn’t any good, so it’s not like you’re missing anything 😉
After the flight:
Congratulations, you made it through your long flight and now you can finally enjoy the destination!
If you’re lucky, you have arrived on a really sunny day that constantly reminds your body that it’s meant to be awake. If you have arrived on a grey day, it still helps to be active and to go outside because the fresh air and the moving around helps your body clock adjust.
If you just can’t stay awake, then set an alarm clock and try to limit your nap to maybe 2 hours. As nice as it might feel to sleep after you’ve arrived, it won’t help you going to sleep in the evening thus extending the whole jet-lag business.
And if you feel like all the effort didn’t lessen your jet-lag in the least, be assured that it will go away eventually. The internet tells me that it takes a day to adjust to one change in time zone. So if you flew from Europe to Australia, it can take a week or more to adjust.
So how do you deal with jet-lag? Are you one of the few lucky people who don’t really feel it? Or are you dreading it every time?