How to beat Jet lag – tips for those long haul fligths

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Jet lag! Most of you will have experienced this at one time or another if you have flown long distance.  As you travel across time zones the disruption of your body clock can lead to tiredness, waking up at night along with possible digestive problems and headaches. This  can happen after you return to your own time zone as well as during your trip.

So how do you beat Jet Lag?

There are many tips including changing you sleep pattern before you fly, eating specific foods and staying happy! But for us it’s all down to time.

We spoke to a commercial pilot recently about how he copes with crossing time zones and his answer was to stay on UK time wherever he flew. This may work for a long haul pilot but for anyone travelling for business or a holiday you do need to slot into the local time zone.

The majority of our recent long haul flights have been from the UK to the USA, Canada and South Africa.  For such distances direct flights will help you manage jet lag especially to somewhere like Cape Town. The time difference is just 1-2 hours in South Africa, depending on the time of year. If you book a direct flight, they usually leave in the evening, after 5pm. With an 11 hour 30 minute flight time you can enjoy some inflight entertainment, eat a meal and have plenty of time to sleep. Arriving in the morning from 7am onwards you can very easily slot into the local time zone. Stay awake all day and go to bed from 9pm onwards and you should be fine. Take a return night flight and the process is just the same.

It’s a simple thing but always knowing the local time of your destination is the best way to manage the jet lag. The first thing to do is change the time on your watch or phone as soon as you board the aircraft. If you are flying east to west – say London to New York or Toronto then the time difference is usually 5 hours behind on the east coast of America. All you need do is just stay awake! On arrival stay up until 9pm  local time and you shouldn’t have any issues. On the return flight take a night flight back. Don’t worry about catching a film just make sure that you sleep as much as you can, at least the second half of the flight,  so that you are woken by the crew as they serve the breakfast meal just before landing. Once landed stay awake until 9pm onwards.

It gets harder to cope the further the flight, especially if you are heading to Australia or New Zealand. Breaking up flights with a stopover can be helpful but also adds to the cost of your trip. Again it’s all about slotting in to the destination time.

On a recent 11 hour 30 minute flight to Bangkok,  a quick check of the time difference helped to organise what we were to do on the flight to not suffer any jet lag.  With a departure time at around midday we would be arriving in Thailand at almost midnight UK time. The plan was to try and sleep for the last 5 hours of the flight so that we would wake just before touchdown. To help block out any noise you can listen to one the music channels on the inflight entertainment. We managed 4-5 hours sleep and then stayed awake until around 10-11pm local time. The return flight was a night flight, departing around midnight so again sleeping for at least the second half of the flight meant a simple transition back to UK time.

We don’t worry too much about the food, or drinking too much coffee, it’s all about staying awake when flying east across the Atlantic and sleeping at least the second half of the flight if your (local) arrival time is early morning.  If you are arriving at midday or in the afternoon on a long haul flight then it maybe that you sleep the first half of the flight. Just switch into your destination time as you board the plane.

Hopefully this simple method works for you but if you have any tips let us know or tweet them to us @Plane_Talking.

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